Date: Saturday March 9th
Opponent: #5 Tennessee Volunteers - 27-3 (15-2)
Location: Auburn Arena
Network: ESPN, Auburn Radio Network
When Bryce Brown, Horace Spencer and Cole Blackstock came to campus, Auburn Basketball was an afterthought. When Malik Dunbar arrived 2 years ago, it was right before the start of something special. These 4 guys will play in their final home game today as Auburn welcomes the Tennessee Volunteers to Auburn to close out the regular season. Tennessee will look to win at least a share of the SEC Regular Season title while Auburn is looking for the final double bye in the SEC Tournament next week. Auburn needs to beat Tennessee and for Georgia to beat South Carolina for that to happen. If Auburn wins, and South Carolina wins, then the Tigers will be the #5 seed playing on Thursday. With a loss, Auburn could fall as far as a #7 seed with the potential of playing (gulp) Alabama in the first game if the Razorbacks beat Alabama today. With all of that said, let’s move on to Tennessee. We did a Q&A with SB Nation’s Rocky Top Talk yesterday if you want to read more about today’s game from a Tennessee perspective.
Get to Know Tennessee...
The Vols are an outstanding basketball team and this will be one of Auburn’s toughest challenges this year, especially in the paint. We have to start with junior forward and last year’s SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams (#2). Williams looks like he may repeat in winning that award this year although Kentucky’s P.J. Washington and LSU’s Tremont Waters may have a say in that. Williams leads the SEC averaging 19.1 points a game while also averaging 7.6 rebounds a game. He’s a good free throw shooter (83%) and shoots 34.2% from 3-point range. As a fan of college basketball, I’m excited to watch him play in person for the first time.
Wild sequence at the end of the Tennessee-Ole Miss game. Grant Williams with the go-ahead bucket and Admiral Schofield with a game-winning charge 30 feet from the rim.— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) February 28, 2019
A-plus jacket toss from Kermit Davis too. pic.twitter.com/fftbiSTkxp
Next we have senior guard Admiral Schofield (#5), a tall guard at 6’6”, he’s 2nd on the team averaging 16.4 points a game. He’s been in double figures in all but 3 games this season and shoots 39.4% from 3-point range this year. Between Williams and Schofield, these two guys are going to be a handful for Auburn’s defense.
A very underrated portion of Tennessee’s team is their guard play. While Williams and Schofield get most of the headlines, the talent level of their guards doesn’t drop off much, if at all.
Junior guard (#0) Jordan Bone has had a terrific season nearly doubling his scoring average from 7.3 last year to 13.3 this year. Bone scored 27 points last Saturday against Kentucky and made all 5 3-pointers in that game. He didn’t make a 3 in 4 tries against Mississippi State on Tuesday but Bone’s a very capable 3-point shooter at 34.9% for the season.
Junior guard (#1) Lamonte Turner is a Florence, Alabama native averaging 10.6 points a game this year. He’s had back to back 4 point games and his numbers have been up and down this year so we’ll see what kind of game Turner has today.
Rounding out the starting lineup is senior forward (#11) Kyle Alexander, who’s 6’11” and averaging 7.6 points and 6.6 rebounds a game this year.
Off the bench, Tennessee has an outstanding 6th man in junior guard (#23) Jordan Bowden. He’s averaging 10.3 points a game this season and put up his most points in a game in nearly a month scoring 12 points and 6 rebounds in their win over Mississippi State Tuesday.
Another player off the bench to take note of is sophomore forward (#10) John Fulkerson. Think of Horace Spencer and what he brings off the bench, particularly his energy. While averaging just 3.4 points a game, expect Fulkerson to play some big minutes for Tennessee in the paint.
What to Look for from Auburn...
Normally I tell you who to watch out for but I feel as today is Senior Day, it’s an opportunity to honor the seniors as they play their final game in Auburn Arena today.
Brown has 341 made 3-pointers, most in Auburn history and 5th most in the history of the SEC. He’s made 100 3s so far this season and is shooting 40% on the season from 3-point range. When Brown first came to campus, he was primarily a 3-point shooter but has developed on defense and he’s willing to take the ball into the paint much more than he was when he first got here. Brown was also one of the building blocks that’s helped this program to take off and his contributions won’t soon be forgotten by this writer. My hope is he has a game like he did in last year’s regular season finale today.
When Bryce Brown is on, it’s incredible to watch. This got it down to 3. pic.twitter.com/wFPKep8Ma8— Will McLaughlin (@ShootyHoopsWill) January 20, 2019
Horace Spencer will always be one of my favorite Auburn players, for his energy, defense and mostly, just his hustle on the court. Horace came in with Bryce Brown and made a big impact in his first collegiate game.
This was the first game I saw Auburn win. Horace Spencer, playing his last home game tomorrow, had the game winning block in his first collegiate game. pic.twitter.com/34WEOPvxKg— Will McLaughlin (@ShootyHoopsWill) March 8, 2019
Horace has started at times but for the most part, he’s come off the bench and played well in his role. His energy is going to be greatly missed next year and these blocks as well.
When will people learn? Thou Shall NOT Attempt to Dunk on Horace Spencer!!!! pic.twitter.com/kgM0BdDW6X— Will McLaughlin (@ShootyHoopsWill) February 4, 2019
Also, never, ever question Horace Spencer’s heart, especially after coming back into the Kentucky game earlier this year after being bloodied up moments earlier.
Never underestimate the heart of Horace Spencer. Gets knocked down, stitched back up and scores on his first touch back in the game. 55 looks good on you Horace! pic.twitter.com/h4qV7uSi1S— Will McLaughlin (@ShootyHoopsWill) January 20, 2019
I wasn’t really sure what to think when Auburn signed Dunbar last summer but man, he’s been a fun guy to watch these last 2 years. With his infectious personality, to his vicious dunks, to getting a moniker started by our own AU Chief, #ClassicMalik, I’m gonna miss this guy next year. Dunbar, like Spencer, have both given Auburn a bunch of needed energy off the bench this season. Auburn doesn’t beat UAB without either of these guys and Auburn doesn’t win the Alabama game without Malik this week.
Auburn doesn’t win that game tonight without Malik Dunbar. His putback dunk really got the run going to get Auburn back in the game. Had a 3-point play and a 3 in that spurt as well. Jared and Chuma will get the accolades as they should, but we need to give Malik some love too.— Will McLaughlin (@ShootyHoopsWill) March 6, 2019
Dunbar has had more of a role than I anticipated on this year’s team and he’s earned that based on the energy he always brings to the table. There are so many Malik dunks I can show here but I’ll show a 3-pointer and 2 of my favorite dunks.
Last one: had to go back to Mizzou because I needed another one for Malik Dunbar. Auburn hit 5 3s in the first half. This was their 6th of the second half. (Note the Time) pic.twitter.com/0EgMxVjYJU— Will McLaughlin (@ShootyHoopsWill) February 4, 2019
Hearing the reaction to Dunbar’s dunk on the computer is one thing but I legit thought the roof was coming off of Auburn Arena after this one!!! THROW IT DOWN!! pic.twitter.com/yULf0lw2AE— Will McLaughlin (@ShootyHoopsWill) January 14, 2019
Hailing from South Carolina, junior Malik Dunbar is Auburn’s high-flying-rim-rattler known for his ferocious dunks, but don’t be fooled because the 6’6” guard/forward combo can hit ‘em from deep. That said, one analyst referred to Dunbar’s legs as pogo sticks after an angry dunk. pic.twitter.com/XkU6RCLi7z— Skye Underwood (@SkyeUnderwood) March 15, 2018
Auburn was able to put Cole on scholarship this past year and while walk-ons don’t get the love that most people do, they are just as important to a team as anyone else. And I think Cole is gonna do just fine, especially as a 4.0 student in the rigorous Auburn Engineering program.
ICYMI: “Cole is a 4.0 student in the College of Engineering. You can have this cheer: ‘That’s alright, that’s OK, you’re gonna work for him someday.’” Love it, @coachbrucepearl. Our engineers “believe in work, hard work.” Nice job, Cole Blackstock, sr. in electrical engineering. pic.twitter.com/jgVdG2AMUx— Auburn University Ginn College of Engineering (@AuburnEngineers) January 31, 2019
This may be one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen though.
May be one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Make sure to give Cole Blackstock some love on his final home game as an Auburn Tiger tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/WOIYwRU6ox— Will McLaughlin (@ShootyHoopsWill) March 9, 2019
Alright, back to business. This game is going to come down to whether or not Auburn can contain Williams and Schofield, two of the best players Auburn may have played this year not named Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett. They also have to make 3-pointers tomorrow, plain and simple. Tennessee’s defense at times has struggled of late but the last week, they’ve held opponents in the 50s. That cannot happen today if Auburn wants to win this game.
I think this will be an outstanding college basketball game and all week, I’ve thought Auburn was going to find a way to protect their home court on senior day. Tennessee knows what’s at stake for them. They also know that Auburn beat them on their homecourt last year. It’s going to be a battle but in the end, I think Auburn gets this done in a game you and I won’t forget for a long time.
Auburn 83 Tennessee 79