Thompson-Boling Arena had all the feels of a mid November game in Evanston, Illinois as the Iowa Hawkeyes prepare to face the Northwestern Wildcats. An SEC basketball game? Nope. Tennessee-Auburn was a Big 10 west football game Saturday.
The two teams combined to score 89 points and make just 25% of their field goals as Tennessee outlasted Auburn 46-43 for a critical SEC win.
Here’s three quick takeaways on an ugly afternoon of basketball.
Football On A Basketball Court
Tennessee and Auburn are two of, if not the two most physical basketball teams in the SEC. But what went on at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday was more than physical. It was a football game on a basketball court.
The officials let both teams play to a crazy extent and while it led to seemingly five missed foul calls each possession, it did keep the game from being a non stop foul fest that could have extended the hoops game to the length of a football game.
Auburn-Tennessee was not a game for the faint of heart. It wasn’t a game for the physically weak either. You couldn’t survive if you were.
The results were both teams shooting under 30% in the first half— Auburn shot 23% and had a 10 minute and five minute stretch without making a field goal. The final results weren’t much better either with Auburn shooting 24% from the field for the game and Tennessee shooting 27% from the field for the game.
The court spacing and physicality wasn’t helped by both team’s horrendous perimeter shooting. Both teams combined to shoot two-of-20 from three-point range in the first half and finished to five-of-48 for the game. Granted, there were few open looks from the perimeter but the struggles did little to help the flow of the game.
Tennessee-Auburn was a SEC basketball game but it looked a lot more like a Big 10 west football game.
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Tennessee Gives Itself A Lift On The Offensive Glass
There wasn’t much that went well for Tennessee’s offense in its 46 point outing against Auburn. It did provide itself a boost on the glass, particularly the offensive end in the outing.
The Vols earned a, 47-42, rebounding advantage on the game and a 15-8 advantage on the offensive end. The second chance points saw a greater discrepancy than the rebounds themselves as Tennessee totaled 10 points off missed shots compared to just two for Auburn.
Tennessee’s below average offensive players that show great hustle provided some critical baskets in the rock fight, most notably Jahmai Mashack and Tobe Awaka.
Seven different Tennessee players snagged offensive rebounds with Mashack (three) and Awaka (two) leading the way for the Vols.
Josiah-Jordan James was also fantastic on the glass, grabbing 14 rebounds on his way to a double-double.
Josiah-Jordan James Provides A Boost
The glass wasn’t the only place Josiah-Jordan James made an impact Saturday afternoon. On an afternoon where Tennessee’s best players did not play well, James provided a boost.
James tallied 15 points and while he did it on a not terribly efficient five-of-12 shooting from the field, no one was efficient on the offensive end for either team.
Whenever it felt like Auburn was making a run at Tennessee in the second half it was James that provided the answer. The senior forward got to his midrange spot on the wings and elbows and hit some huge shots. James also hit two free throws in the bonus to extend Tennessee’s lead late in the game.
Combine James solid offensive output with his strong rebounding and defense, you have the best player on the court. After a few consecutive rough games, the bounce back was critical and needed from the Vols’ senior.
Tennessee hits the road and travels west to Nashville for a midweek bout with Vanderbilt. Tip-off between the Vols and Commodores is at 7 p.m. ET. The SEC Network is broadcasting the game.