3 Observations: No. 17 Auburn 85, Tennessee 63

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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    Tennessee pulled off two strong, improbable wins over the last week, but they couldn’t find a way to get a third on Saturday.

    The Vols (17-14, 9-9 SEC) fell to Auburn (25-6, 12-6) on Senior Day on Saturday afternoon, losing by a score of 85-63 in front of a packed Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee never led and only tied up the game twice, once at 4-4 and again at 6-6.

    Other than that, Auburn led basically wire-to-wire.

    Jordan Bowden scored 17 points and added four rebounds and four assists in his final game as a Vol in Thompson-Boling Arena. The senior shot 4-of-11 from the field and made eight of his nine free throws on the afternoon, and only John Fulkerson (19 points) had more points than him on UT’s roster.

    Unfortunately for Bowden and the Vols, his and Fulkerson’s efforts weren’t enough.

    Tennessee’s defense just couldn’t get stops when they needed it most, and the Vols’ offense couldn’t keep up. UT has won just one game all season when allowing an opponent to score more than 70 points, and that happened on Tuesday in the Vols’ thrilling 81-73 comeback victory over Kentucky. The Vols are just 1-9 when their opponent tops 70 points this season.

    Auburn’s 85 points are the most the Vols have allowed in a game this season, and it’s the 15th time this year the Tigers have scored at least 80 points. Auburn is a perfect 15-0 when eclipsing the 80-point mark.

    Bruce Pearl has now led Auburn to five-straight victories over Tennessee, and the Tigers found a way to win in an arena they’ve historically struggled in. Auburn was just 8-48 all-time in Knoxville before Saturday’s game, and their win on UT’s Senior Day gave them just their ninth win ever on Tennessee’s home court.

    With the loss, Tennessee likely has to win the SEC Tournament next week in order to make the NCAA Tournament. The loss also means the Vols are guaranteed to be the eight-seed in the conference tournament.

    Here are our three biggest takeaways from the Vols’ loss to Auburn in the regular season finale.

    No Doughty

    In the last match-up between these two teams, Samir Doughty dropped 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting while making three of his five shots from distance. On Saturday afternoon, the VCU transfer once again had his way with the Vols.

    The junior scored a game-high 32 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including going 8-of-13 from three. He also stole the ball three times, matching his total from the last time Tennessee and Auburn played.

    Doughty has scored 20 or more points in 11 games this season, and he did so both times he played Tennessee. He was a huge difference-maker the first time these two teams met, and he basically single-handedly beat Tennessee on Saturday.

    Second Chances

    Tennessee got torched on the boards, especially when it came to offensive rebounds. And Auburn made the Vols pay for it.

    The Tigers out-rebounded Tennessee 42-26 on the afternoon, including a 12-9 edge on the offensive glass. Auburn used that advantage to outscore the Vols 13-10 in second-chance points, and they scored on a ton of put-backs. Auburn outscored Tennessee 30-16 in the paint.

    Austin Wiley killed the Vols down low, ripping down a total of nine rebounds, including four offensive boards. He also scored seven points. The only consistent threat in the post for Tennessee was John Fulkerson, but he was limited in the second half, totaling just six points on 1-of-5 shooting in the closing half of play.

    The Old Auburn Returns

    After being one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country last season, Auburn has been a completely different team this year. The Tigers entered Saturday’s contest as the worst three-point shooting team in the SEC, making just 30.1 percent of their threes and only 27.7 percent of their three-pointers in conference games.

    But against Tennessee, Auburn looked like the 2018-19 Tigers.

    The Tigers nailed 14 of their 32 threes, connecting on 43.8 percent of their three-pointers in the game. Auburn’s 14 made three-pointers are the third-most they’ve made in a game this season, and it’s the most threes the Vols have allowed in a game all year.

    On the season, Auburn is undefeated when making at least 35 percent of their threes. The Tigers improved to 11-0 this season when shooting 35 percent or better from three with Saturday’s win.

    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.