Road Warrior

Apologies to Mel Gibson, but the real "Road Warrior" plays his role for Tennessee's basketball team.

Junior small forward J.P. Prince is shooting a mind-boggling 77.8 percent from the field (14 of 18) in Southeastern Conference road games this season.

The 6-8 Memphis native hit 3 of 4 field-goal tries in the SEC opener at Georgia, finishing with 10 points, 1 assist, 1 block and 2 steals. He came back to hit 6 of 8 shots at Vanderbilt, finishing with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a block. Wednesday night at Arkansas he was 5 of 6 from the floor, finishing with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal.

Prince is averaging 13 points per game in three SEC road contests, with 11 assists, 10 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks and just 2 turnovers in 88 minutes.

Prince isn't the only Vol who seems to thrive away from home, however. As a team Tennessee is hitting 47.5 percent of its shots on the road while limiting its foes to 40.9 percent. The Big Orange is outscoring league opponents by 8.0 points per game on the road and has yet to lose an SEC contest away from home.

There's a good chance Tennessee will move to 4-0 in conference road games Saturday afternoon, since the opponent is a struggling Auburn team (13-9 overall, 2-5 SEC). The Tigers were unimpressive in their two most recent outings, losing 82-75 at home to Vanderbilt last Saturday and getting bombed 78-59 at Ole Miss Wednesday night.

Still, UT head coach Bruce Pearl says the Vols can't get too confident.

"We go to Auburn on Saturday to play one of the league's more experienced teams," he said this week. "That's a team I thought – still think – has a chance to finish in the upper half of the SEC West. Lots of seniors, lots of experience, great athleticism but a little undersized."

The Tigers are undersized, all right. Their biggest starter is 6-7 senior Korvotney Barber. The rest of the cast measures 6-5, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.

Auburn tries to offset its lack of size with an abundance of defensive pressure. The Tigers rank No. 5 nationally in steals (9.6 per game) and limit their opponents to a paltry 40.1 shooting percentage.

Tennessee will counter Auburn's quickness with inside muscle. The Vols lead the SEC in rebounds (40 per game) and offensive rebounds (14.3 per game). They rank third in rebound margin at 5.0 per game.

If the two teams become trigger-happy from outside things could get ugly. Auburn (32.5 percent) ranks 10th and Tennessee (31.3 percent) 11th among SEC teams in 3-point shooting.

Saturday's tipoff is set for noon Central Time, with Raycom televising.

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