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What Bruce Pearl Said After Tennessee Defeated Auburn In Knoxville

Bruce Pearl Upset With Officiating After Loss to Tennessee
Auburn Men’s Basketball Head Coach Bruce Pearl//Photo by Auburn Athletics

Tennessee basketball all but eliminated Auburn from the SEC Championship race on Wednesday night by knocking off the Tigers 92-84 in an instant classic in Knoxville.

Auburn led by eight-points in the second half before Dalton Knecht erupted for 25 of his career-high 39 points in the game’s final 12 minutes.

Following the game, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl discussed Knecht’s massive performance, the dominant player of Auburn forward Johni Broome and much more. Here’s everything Pearl said.

More From RTI: Everything Rick Barnes Said After Tennessee Knocked Off Auburn

Opening Statement

“Well, congratulated Coach Barnes after the game and I told him I hope he wins the league. That’s okay for an Auburn coach to say because he’s got the game of the year, I guess, Saturday at Alabama. You score 84 points on the road, playing for a championship, that ought to be enough to win. Our defense definitely let us down. And obviously Dalton (Knecht) was terrific and he was really hard to stop. 

“One, he made a lot of tough shots, a lot of shots that were contested. Probably disappointed in two things. One, when he went downhill, I thought there were times when we could have offered more resistance, more help off the ball. We didn’t. And then I thought that, I thought (Zakai) Zeigler getting downhill against us was a huge factor. Johni Broome did everything he possibly could offensively and we had some pretty good balance. You score 84 points, should be enough.”

On how to approach stopping a player as hot as Knecht

“I mean, we sent the double a couple times. We got a turnover. We sent a double and one time he passed out of it and they got a dunk. I think that felt like we had guys that could guard him. And when Tennessee wins, they typically win when everybody contributes, right? And tonight he sort of dispelled that.”

On if he thinks Dalton Knecht is the SEC Player of the Year

“What I’ve always done and what I’ve always believed in is I’ve voted for the best player on the best team. So if Tennessee wins the league, he’ll get my vote for sure. If Alabama wins the league, I’m going to vote for Mark Sears. I typically just have always voted for the best player, the best team.”

On Auburn’s offense not making any shots the final couple minutes, what went wrong there

“I think you’ve asked and answered it. I mean, I didn’t think our last two minutes of offense cost us the game. I’ll go back and look at it. I think they fouled us a bunch, right? So we’re shooting free throws. I mean we might have taken one bad shot the last two minutes of the game. Whatever it was.”

On Auburn shooting it well away from home

“I mean, we made nine, right? We shot 40%, scored 84 points. I can’t really fault our offense. I just can’t. We did turn the ball over too much. We definitely turned it over too much. And you know, to have 20 assists on 27 buckets, it’s pretty good. It’s pretty good basketball.”

On what went well for Auburn early in the second half, going from down nine points to up by eight over a span of seven minutes 

“Well, we got some stops. Dalton was, at that point, Dalton hadn’t just caught fire. And they weren’t turning us over, so we were getting really good looks. And I kind of thought that was going to be the way the game would continue. I just liked the way we were playing. I don’t know what the score was, but I think his (Knecht) getting hot was about the time when we may have had our biggest lead. Again, hey, at the end of the day what you got to do is just tip your hat, just tip your hat.”

On where Dalton Knecht compares to other standout players in the history of the Tennessee basketball program

“Well, with his size and the versatility there, I just can’t think of anybody quite like it. But just like anything, like what we’re trying to do at Auburn is, if they win the league, if they advance in the tournament, he’ll have a chance to go down as one of the all-time greats. At the end of the day, he knows that as a great individual, if this team can make a run, then they’ll be talking about him for a long time.”

On what made Auburn’s Johni Broome so effective 

“He’s a handful down there. He’s a handful. He got fouled every time we threw it to him. And he’s a confident player and I trust him. And he’s clearly one of the best players in the league. He’s one of the best centers in the country.”

On how important it was to have Jaylin Williams return from injury for Auburn in that game

“Yeah, we thought that, in other words, we were looking at 10 days to two weeks, right? So this was the 10-day window right here. It was. So he practiced this week and he looked pretty good and he was ready to go. We didn’t start him. My guess was, I thought he would play about 15 minutes, but you know, we’re playing for a championship and he was playing well.”

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