Three Quick Takeaways: Auburn Outlasts Tennessee Basketball

Three Quick Takeaways: Auburn Outlasts Tennessee Basketball

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/ Tennessee Athletics

AUBURN, Ala. — Tennessee basketball was neck-and-neck with Auburn for the first 36 minutes of the game. In fact, the Vols led by three-points with six minutes to go before an 8-0 Auburn run sparked the Tigers to a 79-70 victory at Neville Arena.

The regular season ending loss means Tennessee will finish the season 11-7 in SEC play and be playing on Thursday in the SEC Tournament for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

Here’s three quick takeaways on the loss.

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Santiago Vescovi Shoulders The Load

With Zakai Zeigler sidelined the rest of the season, senior shooting guard Santiago Vescovi is going to shoulder the offensive load the rest of the season.

That is a particularly challenging task when it includes running some point guard as well as being by far Tennessee’s best offensive threat.

In his first full game without Zeigler beside him, Vescovi was fantastic. The left-handed sharp shooter led all scorers with 11 first half points, making four-of-seven shots from the field. Vescovi also did a strong job of getting his defender up in the air and driving to create for himself and others.

The senior was just as critical in the second half, seemingly providing an answer every time Auburn’s lead creeped above five points. In what was likely his final regular season college basketball game, Vescovi totaled 21 points on eight-of-13 shooting from the field and five-of-nine shooting from three-point range.

Vescovi totaled four assists but his greatest facilitating contribution was the way he made Auburn’s defense move and gave Tennessee an offensive rhythm.

Auburn Flips The Game Around The Half

Tennessee led by seven points with two seconds left in the first half when Santiago Vescovi stripped the ball off an Auburn guard’s leg and out of bounds. The officials missed the call giving Auburn one more shot to end the first half.

The Tigers made the most of it as Wendell Green drilled a contested corner triple to cut Tennessee’s lead to 34-30 at the break.

It took just 43 seconds in the second half for Auburn to tie the game up, scoring on its first two possessions.  Josiah-Jordan James and Tyreke Key each made big shots to keep Tennessee afloat as Auburn twice expanded its lead to four points in the opening minutes of the second half.

Said big shots helped Tennessee calm the storm but Auburn led by two at under 16 media timeout. The Tigers didn’t completely take control of the game but they did flip the script and took the lead.

It looked like Tennessee might open up a healthy leads at halftime. Instead, Auburn immediate cut into the Vols lead and make the game extremely tight early in the second half.

Tennessee Doesn’t Get Enough Stops In The Second Half

Tennessee’s offense performed well in its first game without Zeigler, especially considering it was on the road and against a good defensive Auburn team.

However, the Vols couldn’t get enough stops to earn what would have been their best road win of the season. Auburn’s offense was highly successful in the second half, scoring 49 points on 55% shooting from the field.

Some of Tennessee’s miscues were on bad turnovers and poor transition defense. Others were costly defensive breakdowns in the half court— especially in the game’s final minutes. Auburn deserves plenty of credit themselves too. The Tigers hit an abundance of difficult shots in the second half, shots that the poor offensive team hasn’t made all season.

The final result was a half where Auburn scored more points than they did in the entire first game on a staggering 1.458 points per possession.

Final Stats
Up Next

Tennessee returns to the court at the SEC Tournament Wednesday/Thursday. The Vols’ opponent will be clear tonight after seeding is finalized.

Author: Ethan Moore