(Hop)less UT men handle Auburn
Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011 3:25 pm
By: By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — The Tennessee Volunteers had already adjusted to life without coach Bruce Pearl. Playing without injured starter Scotty Hopson for a night was no big deal.
Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams each scored 15 points and the Volunteers manhandled Auburn’s short-handed frontcourt in a 69-56 victory over the Tigers on Thursday night.
The Vols (15-7, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) won their fifth straight league game and controlled the game throughout even with their leading scorer back home with an ankle injury and Pearl still finishing out his eight-game SEC suspension.
“Our mantra for the last four or five games is to defend and rebound,” Tennessee associate head coach Tony Jones said. “We built a wall (defensively). They don’t shoot a good field-goal percentage. We wanted them to make shots over us and wanted to continue to put pressure on them and then rebound our defensive glass.”
The Tigers (8-14, 1-7) couldn’t follow up their first SEC win, at South Carolina, without suspended starting center Rob Chubb.
Williams had eight rebounds and Tatum seven as the Vols dominated the boards 38-24, allowing Auburn to grab just seven in the first half. Tobias Harris added 14 points.
Allen Payne led Auburn with 13 points and seven boards.
The Vols gradually turned a 13-point halftime lead into a 60-38 rout in the first 10:26 of the second half.
Auburn managed to whittle it down in the final minutes with an 18-9 finishing run after Tennessee had emptied its bench. Tigers coach Tony Barbee wasn’t pleased with his team’s mentality.
“It’s a matter of two different programs right now, is what it is,” Barbee said. “I thought we played scared tonight. Why you’d be scared of another college player — I don’t care reputation, how good, ranked. How could you be scared? That’s how we played. We had a lot of guys — not everybody — but we had a majority of guys who played scared out there tonight. That’s unacceptable.”
Payne didn’t dispute that assessment.
“They didn’t even have their best player tonight, they didn’t even have Scotty Hopson,” he said. “But once the ball goes up, all that anxiety and everything before the game has to go out the window. Once the ball goes up, everyone out there’s a basketball player. We’ve got to let that stuff go — all that hype and hoopla coming in — we’ve got to let it go before tipoff.”
Auburn was the last SEC campus where Tennessee’s coaching staff had never won.
Tennessee was better able to shake off a missing starter than the Tigers. Hopson didn’t make the trip after spraining his left ankle in Tuesday’s practice. Josh Bone, who started in Hopson’s place, had eight points and three assists.
“We lost our great scorer in Scotty so everybody had to step up and I think everyone did that,” Williams said.
Chubb was suspended indefinitely for violating unspecified team rules, Auburn announced before the game. He’s averaging 8.1 points and 4.1 rebounds.
“It’s not like he’s a dominant rebounder, so it’s not like we missed him in terms of that,” Barbee said. “We missed his presence in what he does offensively and what he does on the defensive end of the floor in terms of being in position. We missed that tonight, not necessarily his rebounding. He doesn’t rebound much from that position anyway.”
His sub, Adrian Forbes, wasn’t as effective with one point and one rebound in 24 minutes.
With Josh Fields limited by early foul trouble, the 6-foot-10, 272-pound Williams had 12 points by halftime, five more than his season average coming into the game.
The Vols had 17 assists on 23 baskets and made 19 of 24 free throws. They have won their last three SEC games by a combined 52 points and five of their last six games overall.
The points were pretty even in the paint, with Tennessee only holding a 36-32 edge in the paint over the much smaller Tigers.
“They took some of our big guys off the dribble a couple of times and kind of broke our defense down,” Jones said. “However, we kept it together because we had secured a big lead the majority of the second half.”
Pearl has only one more game left on his suspension, but his team has gotten hot without him.
The Vols built a 37-24 halftime lead largely on Williams’ inside play. He had 12 points and four offensive rebounds in the opening half.
His six first-half rebounds were only one fewer than Auburn managed as a team.