5 Observations From UT’s 71-63 Win Over Auburn

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    Bruce Pearl-1-3Any other season, Tennessee playing Auburn in basketball in the middle of the SEC schedule wouldn’t be a big deal. But with former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl back in town for the first time since taking over at Auburn, it was quite a spectacle as 18,439 fans packed into Thompson-Boling Arena to see UT’s former coach take on its new one in Donnie Tyndall.

    Here are five observations from the Vols’ 71-63 win over the Tigers on Saturday afternoon:

    1. Bruce Pearl makes his return to Knoxville

    There’s no denying that this game wouldn’t have received the same attention without Pearl’s return. Pearl received a warm ovation as he entered and left the court, though not quite as big as did Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall. Here were some of Pearl’s thoughts about returning to Knoxville. “I’m really glad it was an early game and we didn’t have all day to sit around and think about it…Last night I had the chance to see some friends and family and was able to raise some money for Camp Koinonia and UT Medical Center and the CL5 Foundation. That was really fun and productive to see so many friends and family that we are still in touch with…My impression as a visitor is this is a beautiful building, When you’re here, you see it every day and you don’t really appreciate it. This place is a palace and so well done.”

    Some other comments:

    2. Armani Moore, the “beast” 

    Armani Moore played arguably the best game of his career, leading all players with 19 points and 13 rebounds on the afternoon. Pearl made no secret what he thought about him – calling him a “beast.” Moore made several nice moves inside, using his athleticism to maneuver around bigger defenders in the post. He twice rose above the rim, once to swat a shot into the stands and another time to slam back a rebound opportunity with one hand. “Part of my problem at the beginning of this season was that I would always come out and try to do a little bit too much,” Moore said. “What I had to work on was really slowing it down and just getting into my move. Once I slowed it down and figured out exactly what I want to do, I look a whole lot better on the court.”

    Click HERE for a look at Moore’s huge plays.

    3. Vols limit Cinmeon Bowers, win the rebounding battle

    Both teams came into the game among the worst in the league in rebounding, both averaging around 33 boards per contest. But it was Tennessee that won this weakness-vs.-weakness battle, grabbing 34 boards compared to 26 for Auburn, including an important 15-11 edge on the offensive end. Moore, again, was huge in this area, collecting 13 total rebounds and seven on the offensive end. Tennessee also did a good job of limiting the effectiveness of Auburn big man Cinmeon Bowers, who had eight rebounds, despite averaging a league-leading 11.2 rebounds per contest coming into the game.

    4. Tennessee “out-Pearls” Auburn in turnovers and free throws

    In a game where both teams were looking to extend some pressure and force a lot of turnovers, Tennessee was able to out-Pearl Auburn so to speak, forcing more total turnovers (18 to 13) and turning those into 20 points, whereas Auburn only had 13 points in that category. The Vols were also strong at the free-throw line, knocking down 26 of 31 (84%) in the game, while the Tigers hit just 68% in the game. That was huge with the officials regularly slowing the game with foul calls, reviews and other technical difficulties. Both teams were in the bonus with 10 minutes remaining in the game, while both teams had the double bonus with about six minutes remaining. Pearl’s teams regularly struggled on the line at Tennessee, and some of that definitely showed up on Saturday as well.

    Butch Jones-1-43
    5. Spectacle surrounding the game

    Pearl’s return was the biggest sideshow, but there were plenty of other things going on in the periphery of the game. Tennessee football coach Butch Jones brought the recruits in town for the game, leading the student section to lead several chants involving Drew Richmond, Preston Williams and Kendall Bussey – three big recruits on campus that the Vols are trying to finish on. Jones actually joined the student section for a few minutes in the first half to get the crowd fired up as well. “That speaks volume of what kind of person he is,” Tyndall said of Jones. “He has no ego…for him to do that is pretty cool.” Other VIPs in attendance included former football coach Phillip Fulmer, women’s head coach Holly Warlick and the entire baseball team made an appearance at halftime as well.

    Final Stats: