Vols collapse, bow 83-80

Leading by 14 points midway through the second half, Tennessee seemed well on its way to a routine victory Wednesday night at Auburn. The final 9 minutes and 44 seconds, however, would prove anything but routine.

The homestanding Tigers made an 18-0 run, turning a 66-52 deficit into a 70-66 lead en route to an 83-80 victory. The loss was the Vols' third in a row – all on the road.

Auburn (12-7 overall, 2-2 SEC) was led by Frank Tolbert with 24 points. Quan Prowell chipped in 21.

Chris Lofton scored 22 points, Ramar Smith 19 and JaJuan Smith 16 for Tennessee (13-5 overall and 1-2 SEC). JaJuan Smith, a combined 4 of 20 from the floor in his two previous games, bounced back to go 7 of 13 in this one.

After scoring 66 points in the game's first 30 minutes, the Vols scored just 14 over the final 10 minutes Wednesday night. That allowed the Tigers – and their fans – to get back in the game.

"We played well enough to get a 14-point lead, then our shot selection at that point I thought really was bad," UT head coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game show. "They called timeout, then we came out and jacked a couple of 3-balls.

"We did not get the ball inside. We didn't drive it enough. Then, when we did, we didn't get to the foul line enough. We didn't get fouled."

Auburn shot 23 free throws in the second half, Tennessee only three.

"Lofton doesn't shoot a free throw?" Pearl said. "It's crazy."

The coach didn't openly criticize the officiating but hinted that the Tigers committed several more fouls than were called.

"We're really disappointed," Pearl said. "This was one we thought we should get. I think Tennessee deserves better but obviously not."

Tolbert and Rasheem Barrett hit baskets to open Auburn's 18-0 explosion, then Quantez Robertson nailed a 3-pointer that narrowed the gap to 66-59. Prowell scored twice, then Barrett hit a 3-point play that tied the score at 66-all with around 4 minutes left.

Prowell drained a 3-pointer, then Josh Dollard chipped in a free throw to cap the outburst and give Auburn a 70-66 lead with 3:17 to play.

Lofton scored on a drive, a 15-footer and a 3-pointer but the Vols were unable to reclaim the lead. The Tigers made just one basket over the game's final 3:30 but hit 14 of 18 foul shots to keep Tennessee at bay.

The Vols used a 10-0 run just before halftime to take a 38-29 lead to the locker room. Tennessee added another five points to the lead in the second half before suffering its mysterious collapse.

Both teams shot 45 percent from the field but Auburn was 20 of 28 from the foul line, while Tennessee went just 7 of 15. This marked the third game in a row that the Vols shot less than 50 percent from the free-throw line.

The Vols return home Saturday, hosting South Carolina at 6 p.m.

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