GAME NOTES: The Auburn Tigers will try for their first SEC win of the season on Wednesday night, as they head to Thompson-Boling Arena to take on the Tennessee Volunteers.
Auburn had been winners of four in a row prior to the start of the league schedule, where it fell on the wrong end of hard-fought decisions versus Ole Miss (65-62) and Missouri (70-68). While the Tigers have had success on their home floor this season (8-2), they are 0-2 in true road games.
Tennessee, which had won four in a row, dropped its first SEC contest of the season on Saturday afternoon versus Texas A&M, falling in heartbreaking fashion, 57-56. It was just the Vols' second loss in Knoxville this season in nine tries.
The Vols have a firm handle on the all-time series with Auburn at 72-37, which includes wins in five straight meetings.
The Tigers battled with a 13-win Missouri squad from wire-to-wire and even held a one-point lead with under two minutes to play before losing control down the stretch to suffer the tough two-point loss. They outshot Missouri from the field, 43.4 percent to 32.7 percent, but were ultimately done in by a 14-of-26 showing at the free-throw line, while Mizzou was 31-of-41 at the stripe. KT Harrell was impressive as usual, shooting 9-of-17 from the field with three 3-pointers on his way to 27 points. Tahj Shamsid-Deen tallied 13 points and six assists, while Chris Denson added 11 points.
On the season, Auburn is able to successfully outpace its opponents, as it shoots 45.8 percent from the field for 75.1 ppg while allowing 70.3 ppg on 41.6 percent shooting, and it is fortunate enough to have the SEC's top two scorers on its side. Harrell pours in 19.3 ppg on outstanding percentages from the field (.491), 3-point range (.408) and the free-throw line (.861), while Denson is hot on his heels with 19.1 ppg on 48.8 percent from the floor, although his lackluster showing at the stripe (.612) has hindered him somewhat.
The Vols grinded out a physical, low-scoring affair with Texas A&M over the weekend but fell victim to a 3-pointer with under five seconds remaining to fall in the heartbreaker. They shot a respectable 40.9 percent from the field and won the rebounding battle, 36-27, but they could not overcome the presence of a game-high 16 turnovers. Antonio Barton and Josh Richardson were both solid in the losing effort with 12 and 11 points, respectively, while Jeronne Maymon made his mark in the paint with nine points and 15 rebounds.
Tennessee has played very well on both ends of the court this season, as it shoots 45.3 percent from the field (including 36.3 percent from 3-point range) while boasting positive margins in terms of scoring (+13.1), rebounding (+8.7) and turnovers (+1.7). Jordan McRae is an elite scoring option, ranking fifth in the league with 18.3 ppg while draining a team-high 30 3-pointers. Jarnell Stokes (13.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and Maymon (10.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg) formulate an imposing frontcourt duo that few teams can contend with.
Auburn has plenty of scoring firepower on the perimeter thanks to Harrell and Denson, but it doesn't have a low-post presence to compete with the Vols' twin towers. On its home floor, Tennessee shouldn't have much of an issue getting back on the winning track.
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