KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A staple defensive effort from No. 2 Tennessee was able to hold off No. 25 Auburn, 46-43
It looked like the Vols brought back some bad energy from Gainesville as the game tipped with Auburn. The Tigers went on 8-0 run before Olivier Nkamhoua broke the streak with a jumper.
Due to a technical foul on Uros Plavsic, Tennessee wasn’t able to take the lead until the final nine minutes of the first half. The Vols rode their edge until halftime.
Shooting was far from stellar early on, the Vols were a mere 16.7 percent from the field before Josiah-Jordan James hit a three that sparked a more consistent effort. With the increase in consistency, Tennessee finished the half completing 29.4 percent of their field goals.
Threes were not falling on either side in the first half, the Vols and Tigers entered the break with a combined 2-of-20 from beyond the arc.
James led the Vols in scoring at the break, connecting on nine of Tennessee’s first 17 points. The Tennessee senior continued to top the scoring charts, finishing with 15 and recording his first double-double of the season with 14 rebounds, a new career high.
Heading to the locker room, Auburn had only made one of their last 19 field goal attempts, only finding success on free throws since first four-and-a-half minutes of the game.
Defensively the Vols were powerful in the first, holding the Tigers to 19 points. The defense battle continued on both sides in the second half, Auburn limiting the Vols to their lowest point total of the season. Auburn put up a fight, tying the contest up 28-28 with 14:06 remaining in the game, scores from Tobe Awake and James followed, eliminating the chance for the Vols to fall behind.
Tennessee was able to pull away late in the second, finding their largest lead of the game with just over five minutes to go.
The Vols were 1-19 from three until Santiago Vescovi connected beyond the arc in the final three minutes. Fouled on the play, Vescovi brought the crowd to their feet as the and-one fell. Tennessee only made one of their final eight field goals and only saw free throws in the final two-and-half minutes, turning to their defensive power to shut down the Tigers in the final seconds.
The victory over Auburn puts the Vols back on track following their unranked loss to Florida earlier in the week.