Unranked Charlotte? Check.
Top-ranked Kansas? Check.
SEC foe Auburn?
That was Thursday nightâ€™s test for the Tennessee basketball team.
But not one Bruce Pearlâ€™s squad couldnâ€™t handle.
The Vols used a late first-half surge to stage a comeback victory over SEC foe Auburn 81-55 at Thompson-Boling Arena for Tennesseeâ€™s first conference win of the year.
â€œGood rebound from a poor start,â€ Pearl said. â€œI thought Auburn brought great energy, great effort and intensity to start the game. We didnâ€™t start well.â€
Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince led the way for Tennessee with 14 points apiece while Scotty Hopson added 11. Wayne Chism chipped in a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
The Tigers (9-8, 0-2 SEC) connected on 10 of 24 three pointers in the first half and set the tone early with a barrage of perimeter shots. A Frankie Sullivan three pointer gave Auburn a 34-22 lead with just under six minutes left in the first half.
â€œThey came out, and they were hitting some good shots,â€ forward Kenny Hall said. â€œThey are a good shooting team. You expect that from a great shooting team, but as far as our standpoint, we probably stepped up a few times.â€
It was then that UTâ€™s offense sparked, and Auburnâ€™s sputtered.
The Vols (13-2, 1-0) finished the half on a 16-3 run to hold a 38-37 lead at intermission.
â€œWe did a great job of responding to that run,â€ Chism said.
The second half was all Tennessee. The Vols outscored Auburn 43-18, limiting the Tigers to only 26 percent shooting after the break. After opening the game 42 percent from three point range, Auburn shot only 1 for 11 from the perimeter in the second half.
Tennessee scored 26 points off 17 Tiger turnovers. Auburn only connected on six 2-point shots in the contest.
â€œTo only give up six two-point field goals in the SEC is pretty darn good defense,â€ Pearl said.
Fresh off Sundayâ€™s nationally-televised win over No. 1 Kansas, Chism admitted the Volsâ€™ slow start was expected.
â€œYou try your best to play hard after you beat a number one team in the country,â€ Chism said. â€œBut sometimes you lose focus, and thatâ€™s what happened.
â€œBut coach said, â€˜You ainâ€™t playing that team no more!â€™ We responded to it, and played good down the stretch.â€
Vols survive early scare against Tigers
Published: Fri Jan 15, 2010