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HomeSports#2 Tennessee Vols Basketball faces #25 Auburn at Thompson-Boling Arena, Saturday afternoon

#2 Tennessee Vols Basketball faces #25 Auburn at Thompson-Boling Arena, Saturday afternoon

#2 Tennessee (18-4 | 7-2 SEC) vs. #23 Auburn (17-5 | 7-2 SEC)
Saturday, January 4th, 2023 | 3:00pm CT / 4:00pm ET
Knoxville, TN | Thompson-Boling Arena | TV: ESPN

Tennessee Volunteers - UT VolsKnoxville, TN – Second-ranked Tennessee Vols basketball team is back home for another top-25 showdown this weekend, taking on No. 25 Auburn at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday at 2:00pm 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. Mike Morgan (play-by-play) and Robbie Hummel (analyst) will have the call.
Fans can also listen live on their local Vol Network affiliate to hear Bob Kesling and Bert Bertelkamp describing the action.
Tennessee (18-4, 7-2 SEC) saw its four-game win streak snapped Wednesday at Florida, falling 67-54. Zakai Zeigler (15), Olivier Nkamhoua (11) and Santiago Vescovi (11) all scored in double figures for Tennessee, but the Vols shot just 28 percent from the field as a team—their lowest percentage during conference play this season.

Saturday’s matchup against Auburn marks the first of two between the Vols and Tigers this season, as the teams are also set to face off in the regular-season finale on March 4 at Auburn. Last season, Tennessee snapped a six-game losing streak to Auburn with a 67-62 home win over the No. 3 Tigers on February 26th.

The Series

Tennessee leads its all-time series with Auburn, 79-44, dating to 1927.

When the series is contested in Knoxville, the Vols hold a 49-9 advantage.

Since 1999-2000, Tennessee is 11-2 vs. Auburn at Thompson-Boling Arena.

UT won last season’s lone meeting, rallying from an 11-point second-half deficit to post a 67-62 victory in Knoxville.

Among SEC teams over the last six seasons, only Auburn (139) has more total wins than Tennessee (137).

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.
The UT Vols have won 27 of their last 28 games inside Thompson-Boling Arena.
Under Rick Barnes, the Vols have logged 24 wins over AP ranked foes, including 11 wins over top-10 teams.

Scouting Report

The Vols have held the No. 2 spot in the NCAA’s NET ratings since January 3rd.

Tennessee has two wins over teams with a current top-10 NET rating—No. 7 Kansas and No. 9 Texas. UT is one of only six teams in the country that can claim that.

During SEC play, Tennessee leads the league in scoring defense (56.4 ppg), free-throw percentage (.791) and assists (16.4).

In its last 25 games against SEC opponents, the Vols are 22-3 with wins over every league opponent except Alabama (no meetings).

Reigning SEC Player of the Week Zakai Zeigler averages a league-best 6.8 assists during SEC play while ranking third in the league in both assist/turnover ratio (3.05) and steals (2.22 spg).

Saturday is Tennessee’s third home sellout this season. UT ranks fifth nationally in average home attendance (17,897)—one of three SEC teams in the top four.

The Nation’s Best Defense

For the 10th straight week, the Volunteers own the best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country per KenPom, allowing only 85.5 points per 100 possessions.

Tennessee owns the nation’s best field-goal percentage defense (.348) and 3-point defense (.225).

10 times this season, the Vols have held their opponents to 50 points or less.

Only three teams have reached the 70-point mark against these Vols.

Only five opposing players have scored 20 or more points against the Vols this season.

In 22 games, Tennessee opponents have managed to make only 110 3-pointers—just 5.0 per game.

Tennessee has trailed at the break only four times this season and is outscoring its opponents 34.8 ppg to 25.1 ppg in first-half action (+9.7 ppg).

About the Auburn Tigers

Auburn (17-5, 7-2 SEC) has dropped two of its last three games after having previously won five straight. The Tigers saw their 28-game home win streak snapped in a 79-63 loss to Texas A&M on January 25th before falling on the road in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge last Saturday at West Virginia, 80-77. Auburn defeated Georgia at home on Wednesday, 94-73, avenging a loss to the Bulldogs from last month.

The Tigers are 4-3 in true road games this season, having won three of their last four.

Auburn is 2-3 in Quadrant 1 games this season, with wins over Arkansas at home and Northwestern at a neutral site. Ranked No. 2 in the NET rankings as of Feb. 2, Tennessee is set to be the highest-ranked team Auburn has faced this season by 22 spots.

Sophomore forward and Morehead State transfer Johni Broome has made an immediate impact for Auburn this season, ranking second on the team in scoring (13.6 ppg) and leading the team in rebounding (8.9 rpg) and blocks (2.5 bpg). Last season at Morehead State, Broome was named All-OVC First Team and OVC Defensive Player of the Year.
Despite losing Jabari Smith to the 2022 NBA Draft, Auburn returned a trio of guards—Wendell Green Jr. (13.8 ppg), Allen Flanigan (9.4 ppg) and K.D. Johnson (8.1 ppg)—this season from last year’s team that finished 28-6 (15-3 SEC) and won the SEC regular-season title.
Coming in at No. 25 this week, Auburn is ranked in the AP Poll for a program-record 32nd week in a row.
According to KenPom.com, Auburn ranks 21st in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency and 48th in adjusted offensive efficiency.

Last Clash With Auburn

Using explosive second-half offense and smothering rebounding, No. 17 Tennessee defeated third-ranked Auburn, 67-62, at Thompson-Boling Arena on February 26th, 2022.

Tennessee set a Barnes-era high in rebounding, pulling down 54 boards. The Vols fired 4-of-7 (.571) from beyond the 3-point line and knocked down 16-of-21 (.762) from the free-throw line in the second half while netting 42 points.

All-SEC guard Santiago Vescovi led Tennessee with 14 points and added two blocks.

Freshmen Kennedy Chandler and Zakai Zeigler each tallied 13 points. Zeigler finished 8-of-9 at the line and logged three steals.

Josiah-Jordan James added 10 points and nine boards.

Auburn was led by first-round NBA Draft pick Jabari Smith, who scored 27 points on 9-of-21 (.428) shooting from the field.

A 17-2 Tennessee run in the second half helped the Vols rally from an 11-point deficit with 16:41 to play.

Memorable Vol Performances Against Auburn

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 Feb. 25, 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, and 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.

Back-To-Back Losses Rare

Tennessee has not lost consecutive games since the 2021 postseason.

UT’s last back-to-back losses to SEC opponents came in January 2021 at Florida (January 19th) and vs. Missouri (January 23rd).

The Vols haven’t suffered consecutive non-conference losses since dropping games vs. Wisconsin (December 28th, 2019) and at No. 3 Kansas (January 25th, 2020).

Next Up For UT Men’s Basketball

The Tennessee Vols basketball team heads to the mid-state for its second matchup of the season with in-state foe Vanderbilt on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 6:00pm CT on SEC Network.


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