#17 Tennessee (20-7 | 11-4 SEC) vs. #3 Auburn (25-3 | 13-2 SEC)
Saturday, February 26th, 2022 | 3:00pm CT
Knoxville, TN | Thompson-Boling Arena | TV: ESPN
Knoxville, TN – The 17th-ranked Tennessee basketball team returns home for a ranked showdown Saturday afternoon, facing off with the No. 3 Auburn Tigers inside Thompson-Boling Arena at 3:00pm CT.
Fans can catch Saturday’s game on ESPN and online or on any mobile device through WatchESPN. WatchESPN can be accessed through the ESPN App, or online at espn.com/watch. Karl Ravech (play-by-play), Jimmy Dykes (analysis) and Kris Budden (reporter) will have the call.
Although Saturday’s game is sold out, fans can still purchase tickets through Vivid Seats. Access to the Vivid Seats website can be found here.
Tennessee (20-7, 11-4 SEC) picked up its 20th win of the season Tuesday with an 81-60 win at Missouri. All-SEC candidate Kennedy Chandler led the way for the Vols with 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting with a career-high eight rebounds and six assists.
Joining Chandler in double figures was fellow All-SEC hopeful Santiago Vescovi, who scored 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting from 3-point range, and Victor Bailey Jr., who scored 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
The 2021-22 season is the third season of the Rick Barnes era in which the Vols have reached 20 wins, and the first since 2018-19.
Tennessee leads its all-time series with Auburn, 78-44, dating to 1927.
The Vols own a 48-9 advantage when the series is contested in Knoxville. Tennessee triumphed in 10 straight home games over Auburn from 2000-16, but the Tigers have won each of the last two clashes at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Over the last two games in this series that took place in Knoxville, Auburn averaged 89.5 points and 11.5 made 3-pointers.
Saturday marks the only regular-season meeting between the Vols and Tigers.
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl coached the Tennessee program from 2006-11. His son and current Auburn assistant coach, Steven Pearl, lettered for the Vols from 2007-11 and is a UT graduate.
ESPN’s BPI ranks Tennessee’s strength of schedule as the fourth-toughest nationally.
Layup Lines – Team
Tennessee ranks fifth nationally in average home attendance (17,706) and is riding a 15-game win streak at Thompson-Boling Arena dating to last season.
Tennessee stands at No. 9 in the NCAA’s latest NET ratings. Each of UT’s seven losses are Quad 1.
The Vols have faced nine AP Top 25 opponents so far this season.
Tennessee joins Kentucky and Auburn as the only three SEC teams that have no losses outside Quadrant 1 this season.
According to KenPom, the Vols rank fourth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 87.8 points per 100 possessions.
Tennessee’s scoring defense of 66.1 ppg in SEC play is the second-best in the league. The Vols have held their last six SEC opponents to fewer than 65 points.
Tennessee allows a stingy 62.0 ppg during SEC home games this season, with a scoring margin of +11.3 ppg and an unbeaten record.
The Vols rank eighth among all Division I teams in steals per game (9.6 spg) and ninth nationally in turnover margin (+4.4).
Layup Lines – Players
All-SEC candidate Santiago Vescovi is the league’s top 3-point shooter during SEC play, hitting at a .441 clip from long range.
Vescovi has made more 3-pointers during SEC play (49) than any player in the league.
Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and Bob Cousy Award candidate Kennedy Chandler’s 2.27 steals per game rank 13th in Division I and second nationally among true freshmen.
A leading candidate for the SEC Sixth Man of the Year award, Vols freshman Zakai Zeigler is the team’s third-leading scorer during SEC play (10.2 ppg) while leading the league in steals and free-throw percentage (.904) in conference games.
Freshman forward Jonas Aidoo has a team-high six blocks over Tennessee’s last three games.
About The Auburn Tigers
After having started the season 22-1 (10-0 SEC), Auburn (25-3, 13-2 SEC) has dropped two of its last five games.
The Tigers fell at Arkansas in overtime on February 8th, 80-76, and at Florida on February 19th, 63-62.
All three of Auburn’s losses this season have come away from home. In SEC wins, the Tigers’ margin of victory is 6.2 points per game on the road as opposed to 15.3 points per game at home.
Auburn has posted a 7-3 record in Quadrant 1 games this season. Ranked No. 9 in the NET rankings as of February 24th, Tennessee is the highest-ranked team that Auburn will have faced away from home this season.
The Tigers achieved a No. 1 AP poll ranking for the first time this season, holding the top spot for three weeks (January 24th to February 7th).
Projected top-five NBA draft pick Jabari Smith leads Auburn in scoring and ranks eighth in the SEC with 16.2 points per game. Smith is also 10th in the SEC in rebounds per game (6.8).
Tigers’ sophomore forward Walker Kessler leads the nation in blocked shots per game with a 4.7 bpg average. Kessler set the Auburn single-season record for blocks on Wednesday.
Kessler also leads the SEC and ranks fourth in the nation in field-goal percentage (.644). He has recorded two triple-doubles this season with points, rebounds, and blocks.
Eastern Kentucky transfer guard Wendell Green Jr. comes off the bench for the Tigers, but plays the third-most minutes on the team—averaging 12.5 points and 5.4 assist per game.
According to KenPom.com, Auburn ranks eighth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency and 16th in adjusted offensive efficiency.
Tennessee’s Last Meeting With Auburn
Tennessee lost the battle on the boards as the 25th-ranked Volunteers suffered a 77-72 setback at Auburn Arena on February 27th, 2021.
Tennessee was out-rebounded by Auburn 38-31 overall and gave up 16 offensive boards to the Tigers.
First-round NBA Draft pick Keon Johnson led UT in scoring with 23 points on a 9-of-17 mark from the field.
Fellow NBA Draftee Jaden Springer added 20 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block.
Senior Yves Pons chipped in with 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
The story of the first half was told on the offensive glass, as Auburn racked up 11 offensive boards and took a slim, 34-30 advantage into the halftime break.
Auburn maintained control of proceedings through the duration of the second half, never relinquishing its lead and holding off each Tennessee counter punch to close the afternoon.
Memorable Vol Performances Against The Tigers
Carl Widseth made a then-school-record 17 free throws on The Plains against the Tigers en route to another school record, 47 points, on February 25th, 1956, in a 91-87 Tennessee triumph.
Dalen Showalter recorded a double-double with 27 points and 13 rebounds as the unranked Vols upset No. 2 Auburn, 56-55, at UT’s Armory Fieldhouse on February 23rd, 1959.
Playing a team four times in a calendar year is rare. In 1979, UT played a home-and-home series with Auburn. They met again in the 1979 SEC Tournament. The first game of the 1979-80 series was played in December. The Vols were 4-0 vs. Auburn in 1979 (February 2nd & 7th, March 2nd, December 12th).
Tony White broke UT’s single-game scoring record with 51 points against the Tigers in Stokely Athletics Center on Valentine’s Day 1987. UT won 103-84.
Top-Five Wins Not Uncommon
Only once in program history has Tennessee faced an Auburn team ranked in the top five of the AP poll. In that meeting, on February 23rd, 1959, the Vols toppled the second-ranked Tigers by a score of 56-55 at Armory-Fieldhouse in Knoxville.
Tennessee has defeated five AP top-five foes during the Rick Barnes era, including one such win earlier this month.
DATE OPPONENT SITE SCORE
Jan. 24, 2017 #4 Kentucky Knoxville W, 82-80
Dec. 9, 2018 #1 Gonzaga Phoenix W, 76-73
March 2, 2019 #4 Kentucky Knoxville W, 71-52
March 16, 2019 #4 Kentucky Nashville W, 82-78
Feb. 15, 2022 #4 Kentucky Knoxville W, 76-63
Vols Once Again Hit 20-Win Mark
Tennessee has now reached the 20-win mark before the month of March 12 times in program history. This is the third time under head coach Rick Barnes.
For Barnes, this is his 22nd 20-win season as a head coach. That ties for the eighth-most 20-win campaigns among active Division I head coaches.
Santi Seeing A Big Rim, But Now More Than Just A Sniper
With 79 made 3-pointers this season, All-SEC candidate Santiago Vescovi is on pace to finish the season with the seventh-most made threes in program history (90).
Vescovi is averaging 2.9 made threes per game.
It took Vescovi only 18 games this season to surpass his total of 53 3-pointers in 27 games last year.
Vescovi this season is a more balanced scorer as well. While he made just 18 total 2-point field goals last season, he’s made 39 2-point field goals this year—many of them layups.
Pursuing Double-Bye In Tampa
Tennessee is on track to earn a double-bye in the SEC Tournament in Tampa. The top-four seeds earn automatic placement in Friday’s quarterfinal round.
If the tournament started today, the Vols would enter as the No. 4 seed. UT still has two games remaining against teams in the top four of the standings (Auburn and Arkansas, both in Knoxville).
Next Up For UT Vols Basketball
The Tennessee men’s basketball team heads south for its final road game of the regular season, taking on Georgia on Tuesday in Athens, Georgia. Tip-off is set for 5:30pm CT on SEC Network.