It was Cinmeon's second consecutive start at point guard, Bryce Brown had a decent scoring night, and New Williams got some more minutes, but it wasn't enough to sweep the Vols.
Auburn (9-14, 3-8 SEC) fell to Tennessee (12-12, 5-6 SEC) 71-45 tonight in Knoxville, keeping Bruce Pearl and the Tigers from completing the series sweep this season. It was another ugly night for Auburn, who couldn't get to 50 points. Auburn certainly improved in transition defense and was even able to keep Kevin Punter at bay, but the Vols showed their depth with three different players in orange hitting double digits.
Bryce Brown led the Tigers in scoring with 18 points. For the Vols, it was Robert Hubbs III with 20.
Here's the run-down:
Both teams couldn't quite get it going early, but Tennessee shot better towards the end of the first half. Down the stretch, Cinmeon Bowers, Patrick Keim, and New Williams saw action at point guard, and Williams especially showed some drive in early minutes. He had a solid breakaway steal to the basket that Bowers finished, and he hit a three as well.
Tyler Harris couldn't buy a basket down low, which killed Auburn's possessions, and Bowers got lazy with the ball in the first half which resulted in a few of Auburn's eight turnovers in the first half. Both of these problems hurt Auburn's productivity, which is already at a low because of the holes in this roster. Still, it was encouraging to see New Williams find a spark.
Bryce Brown was also a bright spot for Auburn in the first half. He went 3-6 in three point shooting for 9 points.
Tennessee naturally benefitted from Auburn's turnovers, though the points didn't come consistently until the last ten minutes of the second half. Auburn was able to contain Tennessee's leading scorer in Kevin Punter fairly well, but the Vols were led in scoring by Robert Hubbs III (10 points) and Detrick Mostella (6 points).
Tennessee took control in the second half. Almost nobody in a blue uniform could make an easy bucket, and Cinmeon was useless under the basket. A lack of fundamentals continues to plague the Tigers, and it's becoming more and more frustrating to watch.
Aside from Tennessee running away with the lead, the only significant action worth noting was a foul situation in which three different players picked up technical fouls under the Tennessee basket (Auburn's Cinmeon Bowers, and Tennessee's Admiral Schofield and Armani Moore). Schofield appeared to be pulling Kevin Punter away from Auburn players and made contact with the officials in the process. The refs took a long time to review the play before coming up with a ruling, but it didn't much make a difference. Tennessee was still in control to close out the rest of game. Head coach Rick Barnes brought out his bench players inside two minutes to finish the job.
Three Things We Learned
Here's what we learned tonight:
1. We're missing key guard play.
Duh. It's an obvious point, but here's a super fun stat that illustrates it—Auburn didn't break 30 points until 13:58 to go in the second half on a couple of Bryce Brown free throws. Not to mention, eight turnovers in the first half severely hindered Auburn's offensive production, and that's no surprise when Cinmeon is forced to bring the ball up the court. He had a few decent drives to the basket, but for the most part, his guard play was inconsistent.
In total, Auburn turned the ball over 14 times, and you can't win games with that lack of possession. The Tigers need Kareem Canty to return soon (whenever he's allowed to do so), and they're clearly missing contributions from players like T.J. Dunans and Tahj Shamsid-Deen.
2. Auburn was able to hold Kevin Punter to four points...
...but without a complete game, it didn't really matter, because the rest of the Vols found ways to score without him. Auburn has a knack for making average teams looks way better than normal, and tonight it was more of the same. Robert Hubbs III ended the night with 20 points and 5 rebounds, and Devon Baulkman scored 14 points. Credit Tennessee for having players to answer the call when Punter couldn't find the hot hand.
3. These games are getting hard to watch.
It feels like it's been a year since Auburn beat Kentucky and Alabama in the same week. It feels even longer since Auburn opened the regular season with a huge home win against UAB. We're watching a completely different team play basketball at this point in the season, and it's tough to watch. While Auburn continues to fight in each game, there's just not enough chemistry to put together a complete game. Even tonight's commentators agreed—it's still a building process for Bruce Pearl. Getting snakebitten with key injuries will certainly slow that process down.
For now? Be patient...even though it's the hardest thing to do.
Auburn will host Vanderbilt (13-10, 5-5 SEC) this Saturday at 5:00 pm CT.
War Damn Eagle.