By Charles Goldberg
Coach Bruce Pearl said his injury-depleted basketball team played hard and competed. Auburn just didn't have an answer for stopping Vanderbilt's Luke Kornet on Tuesday night.
Kornet had a triple-double and led Vandy to a 75-57 win by scoring 11 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking 10 shots in Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville.
The Tigers, playing shorthanded again, fell behind early, made a mini-run, but could stop Kornet or the Commodores' red-hot shooting in the first half.
"We said we can't focus on winning right now. Let's focus on playing hard. We did that. Play hard, focus on getting better and we've got a chance," Pearl said on the Auburn radio broadcast after the game.
"Our roster is, obviously, challenged."
Auburn fell to 7-8 overall and 1-3 in the Southeastern Conference in losing to the Commodores for the 11th straight time. The Tigers will entertain Kentucky on Saturday. Vanderbilt improved to 9-7 and 1-3 in the league.
Kornet had his 10 blocks and 11 rebounds as the final minutes ticked down. He needed a basket to complete his big night, and got it with less than a minute to play. Auburn's Cinmeon Bowers had 13 points and 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season.
"Cinmeon Bowers was much better," Pearl said.
Kareem Canty, limited to one 3-pointer, led Auburn with 16 points.
But Pearl said his freshmen, forced into action because of injuries to others, had trouble on the road.
"I'm a little disappointed in the freshmen. They didn't help us tonight. They're not freshmen. We're halfway through the season," Pearl said.
Vanderbilt made it tough on Auburn by trying to take away the Tigers' 3-point shooting. The Commodores did, for the most part. The Tigers hit four of 22 3-point tries.
Vandy hit seven 3s to Auburn's one 3-pointer when it led 45-26 with 17:02 left in the second half.
Vandy was even hotter in the first half, shooting 77 percent when it led 25-13. It was shooting 78 percent when it led 37-20.
The Commodores cooled off, a little, to shoot 67 percent in the first half for a 39-22 lead. Auburn hit 1 of its 11 3-point attempts in the first half.
Kentucky visits Auburn Arena at 3 p.m. Saturday in a game that will be televised by ESPN.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter Follow @AUGoldMine