5 Observations from the Vols’ 71-45 victory over Auburn

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    Robert Hubbs-1-3

    Even when the Vols play poorly, they find a way to win at home.

    Both Tennessee and Auburn started out in a shooting funk on Tuesday night, but Tennessee found a way out of theirs by the end of the first half and held a 34-23 advantage at halftime despite Kevin Punter Jr. playing only 8 minutes and scoring just 2 points in the first half.

    Then the second half started, and the Vols pulled away.

    Tennessee stifled Auburn in the second half en route to a 71-45 victory in Thompson-Boling Arena. The 45 points by Auburn was a season-low for them and the fewest points the Vols have allowed in a game all season. The win put the Vols back to .500 and gives them a 5-6 SEC record.

    Here are the five biggest things that stood out in Tennessee’s win over Auburn:

    No Punter, No Problem: The Vols’ leading scorer and SEC Player of the Year candidate Kevin Punter Jr. had a forgettable night. And a poor performance by Punter usually means the Vols struggle or lose.

    Not tonight, however.

    Punter played just 18 minutes and scored a mere 4 points, but the rest of the team stepped up in his absence, most notably Robert Hubbs III. Hubbs dropped 20 points and 5 rebounds to help spur on the Vols to victory. Devon Baulkman added 14 points and 4 assists and Detrick Mostella scored 10. Tennessee’s bench scored 42 of the team’s 71 points.

    Punter had one of his few off nights, and this time Tennessee survived without him. But they don’t need a repeat performance down the road against better teams.

    Where Did That Come From?: Hubbs’ 20 points were a career-high for him, and it came off one of the worst performances in his career in his previous game.

    Hubbs scored just 2 points on 1-of-4 shooting against Arkansas in Tennessee’s 85-67 loss on Saturday. In fact, Hubbs had scored just 12 points in his last three games combined. But Hubbs was able to hit 7 of his 12 shots against Auburn to post his career-high.

    Good Defense, or Bad Offense?: Auburn scored a season-low 45 points against the Vols, but was it because of the Vols’ defense or Auburn’s offense?

    Tennessee forced 14 Tiger turnovers and played good defense around the rim, but Auburn’s offense was abysmal for the entire game. The Tigers shot just 23.7% on the night and had more fouls (23) than made field goals (14). The Tigers hit just 50% of their free throws and made only one three-pointer in 10 tries in the second half.

    The Vols played good defense against the Tigers, but Auburn’s offense had the worst game of the entire season as well.

    Vols Still Good at Home: With the victory over Auburn, the Vols improved to 11-2 at home this season, continuing their dominance at Thompson-Boling Arena this year. Tennessee has now won three straight at home, and the last two victories before the win over Auburn were against ranked opponents (South Carolina and Kentucky)

    No Homecoming for Pearl: For the second consecutive year, Bruce Pearl’s return to Knoxville resulted in a big loss.

    Last season was Pearl’s first game in Knoxville since being fired by UT after the 2010-11 season. And the Vols handled Auburn 71-63. This game was even more of a beatdown, and Pearl’s Tigers never led during the game. Pearl falls to 1-2 all-time against his former team and is 0-2 in Knoxville.

    Nathanael Rutherford
    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.