Auburn, AL. (WATE) – No. 5 Tennessee couldn’t stake a claim on their second straight SEC regular season championship Saturday in Auburn Arena, falling to the Tigers 84-80 in a hotly contested game that went back-and-forth to the wire.
The Vols (27-4, 15-3 SEC) will await Saturday night’s game in Baton Rouge to see if they’ll still end up with a share of the conference title. LSU (25-5, 15-2 SEC) hosts Vanderbilt (9-21, 0-17 SEC) on Senior Night at 8:30 bidding to win the conference title outright.
Auburn (22-9, 11-7 SEC) fired off 34 3-pointers, shooting 38.2% (13-34) from beyond the arc. The defense that had become again an overwhelming strength of the Vols in the final weeks of the season couldn’t keep up with the Tigers, led by Chuma Okeke’s 22 points. Bryce Brown and Jared Harper both added 16.
In almost typical SEC officiating fashion, the game war marred by a missed call. With 2:48 left in the game and leading by 3, Auburn’s Harper rose for a 3-pointer which clanked off the backboard, and hit the front of the rim before being tipped in by Anfernee McLemore. The bucket should have been called as offensive interference and waved off. But the play, which is non-reviewable was instead ruled a three by Harper.
As frustrating as that is, Tennessee’s defense was arguably moreso. The Tigers shot 54.2% in the second half and 43.8% from beyond the arc to outscore the Vols 49-39 in the final 20 minutes.
Grant Williams finished with a game-high 25 points (8-12 FG, 9-10 FT), and 9 rebounds while Jordan Bone scored 17 to go along with 7 assists. Jordan Bowden added 16 points and Admiral Schofield 13, before fouling out.
Tennessee still owns a double-bye in the SEC Tournament and won’t play until next Friday. The Vols will be on a collision course with No. 6 Kentucky in the semifinals if both teams were to win in Friday’s quarterfinals.