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HomeSports#2 Tennessee Vols Basketball wins 46-43 defensive battle against #25 Auburn

#2 Tennessee Vols Basketball wins 46-43 defensive battle against #25 Auburn

Tennessee Volunteers - UT VolsKnoxville, TN – An outstanding defensive performance and a clutch 4-point play in the final minutes of action helped lift the second-ranked Tennessee Vols basketball team to a 46-43 win against No. 25 Auburn at Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday.
After the Tigers clawed their way back to cut it to a two-point game despite offensive woes, Santiago Vescovi delivered a strike from beyond the arc while also drawing a foul. The senior guard converted the 4-point play with 2:33 left in the game to give the Vols (19-4, 8-2 SEC) a 44-38 advantage. 
Auburn (17-6, 7-3 SEC) refused to go away, cutting the lead to one point with less than 20 seconds left, but Zakai Zeigler ended the Tigers’ late rally by knocking down a pair of free throws to ice the game.

Defensively, Tennessee held AU to 24 percent (13-of-56) shooting from the field and 3-of-27 from beyond the arc. During a staggering stretch of 20:05 of game play, the Volunteer defense shut down the Auburn offense, allowing 1-of-26 shooting between 15:40 in the first half and 15:35 in the second half. The Big Orange effort held the Tigers to a season-low-tying 43 points, which also marked the fewest points in an SEC matchup by Auburn squad during the Bruce Pearl era. 
With offense coming sparingly, Josiah-Jordan James offered a consistent presence on that end of the floor, as he recorded the fifth double-double of his career with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Olivier Nkamhoua finished with nine points, two boards, two assists and two steals. Vescovi chipped in seven points, while Zeigler added six assists, four rebounds and three points.
The win marked Tennessee’s fourth against a top-25 opponent this season and was the Vols’ 25th victory over a ranked team during the Rick Barnes era. 
Both teams opened the game with slow starts offensively. At the second media timeout, Auburn held just a 10-6 advantage despite hitting five of its first seven shots to open the contest. The Vols had good looks at the basket but couldn’t get their shots to fall. 
After connecting on two of its first 17 attempts, the Big Orange offense finally started hitting from the field and used a 15-5 run to pull ahead 15-13 with 7:16 left in the first half. During the stretch, Tennessee held the Tigers without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes.

The Tennessee Volunteer defense continued to hold strong, as Auburn missed 18 of its final 19 shots and scored only nine points during the last 15:40 of the frame. The Tigers matched their season low in scoring at halftime with 19 points, shooting 23 percent from the field and 1-of-11 from beyond the arc.
The UT Vols finished the period shooting 29 percent from the floor, but a 21-9 run to close the half gave them a 23-19 advantage at the break. James led the way with nine points, five boards and one assist during the opening stanza. 
The defensive battle continued in the second half, as both teams connected on just two shots from the field during the opening eight minutes of the frame. After Auburn tied things up with back-to-back buckets, a Tobe Awaka putback marked the first of four unanswered baskets by the Vols, pushing their lead to 36-28 with 9:09 left.  
Auburn wasn’t going away, though. The Tigers knocked down a pair of shots and hit two free throws to pull within four points at 40-36 going into the final media timeout.Two more Auburn free throws cut the game to one possession. Desperately searching for a basket, Vescovi delivered with a three that also drew a foul and ended as a much-needed 4-point play to make it a 44-38 game with 2:33 left. The 3-pointer was his first and Tennessee’s second and final long ball in the contest.
Auburn hit a 3-pointer of its own with 30.9 seconds left and then got the ball back with 23.8 on the clock after forcing a Tennessee turnover with its press.
On the next possession, the Tigers grabbed the rebound on a missed basket and converted the second-chance opportunity to make it a 44-43 game with 18 seconds left. After getting fouled on the inbounds play, Zeigler sank both free throws to push the lead back to three and seal the victory for the Volunteers.
For the game, Tennessee shot 27 percent from the field and 2-of-21 from beyond the arc.

Next Up For UT Men’s Basketball

The Tennessee Vols basketball team travels to the state capital to take on Vanderbilt on Wednesday night at 6:00pm CT in Memorial Gymnasium. The game will be televised on SEC Network and broadcast on the Vol Network.

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