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Tigers Unable to Overcome First-Half Deficit, Fall at Home to Tennessee

Ronnie Johnson scored 15 points off the bench in Tuesday's 87-77 loss to Tennessee (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Wade Rackley)

Auburn Men’s Basketball returned to Auburn Arena Tuesday night, winners of three out of their last four. Unlucky for Coach Pearl and the Tigers, their opponent entered the contest on a hot streak of their own. The Tennessee Volunteers, like Auburn, had won three of four. Two of those three wins were against quality opponents in Kentucky, who was ranked 4th in the country at the time, and Kansas State. Tennessee jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead to open the game, and never looked back as they defeated Auburn 87-77. The game began with a three-pointer from Grant Williams, who entered the game as Tennessee’s second leading scorer with 11.2 points per game, then Kyle Alexander nailed a jumper to extend their lead. From there, Auburn got to within two at the 12:29 mark. Ronnie Johnson was successful on both attempts from the line to cut Tennessee’s lead to 16-14. The stretch that sealed the deal came immediately following Johnson’s free throws, as Tennessee scored 13 straight baskets to extend their lead to 17 before a three-pointer from Jared Harper ended the run. Auburn was only able to cut the Volunteer lead down to single digits three times late in the second half, drawing it to as close as eight points. Jared Harper led the team in scoring with 21. A majority of his points came from beyond the arc, where he shot 5-7, all in the first half. His last basket came with 16:47 remaining in the game when he hit a free throw on a three-point play. Anfernee McLemore continued his contributions off the bench, as he recorded 11 rebounds and 9 points. Ronnie Johnson scored 13 points in the second half to bring his total to 15. All in all, the Auburn bench scored 33 points, tying Tennessee in that department. Mustapha Heron scored 12 points to extend his streak of double-digit scoring to 22 games. One surprising stat was Austin Wiley’s final line. In his last three games, Wiley has averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds. Wiley only scored five points in the game, three of those were from the stripe. Wiley ended the night 1-2 from the field and brought down 7 boards. “We did a terrible job of getting the ball over to Austin (Wiley) on the inside and turned the ball over a lot.” Head Coach Bruce Pearl said after the game, regarding Wiley’s low output. “Going in, I thought that’s where we had some real advantage. We were not able to, as a team, create good opportunities for him to get his touches on the inside, and he was open in there a lot.” Auburn falls to 14-8, 3-6 in SEC play. Next up, Auburn travels to Tuscaloosa for a rematch with the Alabama Crimson Tide inside Coleman Coliseum. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. Saturday.

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