Five Observations from Tennessee’s Win at Auburn

    by -

    Photo Credit: Nick Davis/RTI

    Tennessee (13-9, 5-4 SEC) took its three-game winning streak on the road for a matchup with Bruce Pearl and Auburn (14-8, 3-6 SEC).

    UT got the job done, grilling the Tigers by a final score of 87-77.

    Here’s five observations from UT’s seventh top-100 RPI win of the season:

    Vols Control from the Tip

    For the second straight game, Tennessee never trailed. The Vols have not been behind in a basketball game since early in the first half against Kentucky. But even then, UT finished with a victory. Auburn made the game look a lot closer than it really was in the final couple minutes, but make no mistake, Rick Barnes’ team is learning how to finish games.

    When Auburn started to hit some shots in the second half, the Vols answered. When Auburn cut the UT lead to 13 with 7:31 left, Jordan Bowden nailed a 3 to silence the crowd. Not to mention this insane 3-pointer from Jordan Bone as the shot clock expired.

    On the road, it means that much more to finish like Tennessee did.

    Williams Dominates in Limited Playing Time

    Grant Williams only played 18 minutes against Auburn due to foul trouble. But he still scored 17 points. Williams was once again nearly unstoppable against the Tigers, grabbing five rebounds to go with his impressive scoring total. Williams fouled out of the game with 1:24 left.

    Against Auburn’s physical forwards Williams once again showed that he will not back down from a bigger, taller player on the low block. His ability and determination down low is starting to look a lot like VFLs Jarnell Stokes and Tobias Harris. Two of Williams’ boards came on the offensive end.

    Despite not having a blocked shot, Williams was solid defensively as well. When he scores 15+, Tennessee is going to be really tough to beat, and Tuesday’s game showed that Williams ‘ hot streak isn’t limited to Thompson Boling Arena. He’ll be a strong candidate for the SEC All-Freshman team if he continues to play like he did against Auburn.

    Schofield Stays Consistent

    Admiral Schofield has filled Detrick Mostella’s sixth man role to perfection. The sophomore had 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3. The Auburn defenders weren’t even guarding Schofield from behind the arc in the first half, but finally picked him up in the second half.

    Schofield’s energy off the bench seems to be contagious. His leadership on the court pays dividends when he enters a few minutes into the game. Kyle Alexander started at center, playing 11 minutes. Schofield played 24 off the bench.

    Alexander rebounded the ball well again on Tuesday, grabbing four boards in his limited time on the court, and Schofield held his own on the glass as well, pulling down seven rebounds. As long as Schofield can rebound the ball, Barnes has made it clear that he’ll continue to play more minutes. The consistent play of Schofield is a huge plus for Tennessee, given his versatility to play multiple positions.

    First Half Defense Puts it Out of Reach

    At halftime, Auburn’s only hope was for Jared Harper to never miss another shot. Harper had 18 points in the first half. The rest of his team had 12.

    The Tigers were just 8-of-28 from the field at halftime, and only two of those baskets came from inside the 3-point line. Without some spectacular outside shooting in the first half, Auburn would’ve gotten embarrassed at home.

    Bruce Pearl’s team strung together some shots in the second half, but it was too late. UT’s first half defense was enough to put the game out of reach, especially since Harper only scored three points in the second half.

    Another Resumé Builder

    Tennessee’s three-game winning streak came in the friendly confines of Thompson Boling Arena. This top-100 RPI win coming on the road will help UT’s tournament resumé. This team’s ability to win away from home once again shows a rapid maturation from year one to year two under Rick Barnes. Tennessee was just 1-11 on the road last season.

    Up next for the Vols is a trip to Mississippi State on Saturday. The Bulldogs suffered their worst loss to Ole Miss since 1951 on Tuesday, and lost to Tennessee 91-74 a week and a half ago.

    Another conference road win would look quite impressive on this quickly improving resumé.