Jan. 31, 2017
By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Jared Harper hit early, often and deep, making five 3-pointers and scoring 21 points, but it wasn't enough Tuesday in Auburn's 87-77 loss to Tennessee.
"Coming in through warmup, I felt like my shot was going in," Harper said. "My legs were feeling good. And with the flow of the game and how it was going, just being able to pick out my spots to get my shots."
Fellow point guard Ronnie Johnson sparked Auburn in the second half, scoring 15 points in 15 minutes.
Leading by 16 at the half, the Volunteers (13-9, 5-4) quickly extended their lead to 22 on their way to a fourth straight win.
"Tennessee played with greater effort and greater energy. Greater purpose," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.
"A win and we are in fifth or sixth place. A loss and we're in 11th or 12th place," Pearl said. "We knew it was going to be a big swing. And so we're very disappointed."
Danjel Purifoy hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 13 near the 7-minute mark, but Tennessee answered 20 seconds later with a 3, then another with the shot clock expiring to quiet the crowd of 7,525.
Johnson scored 5 quick points to pull Auburn within a dozen at 73-61, reenergizing the student section with 4:42 to play.
Anfernee McLemore's tip-in made it an 11-point game, 74-63, with 4 minutes remaining. He scored 9.
Purifoy hit another 3 to trim Tennessee's lead to 10, 80-70, with 1:11 to play. Another McLemore putback cut the deficit to single digits in the final minute.
Johnson hit a layup to pull the Tigers within 8 with 44 seconds to go, but Auburn would get no closer.
Mustapha Heron, who extended his Auburn freshman record by scoring in double figures for the 22nd straight game, scored 12.
After scoring 25 points in Auburn's win at TCU, Austin Wiley was held to 5 points in 21 minutes. Wiley added 7 rebounds. McLemore led Auburn with 11 rebounds.
"Going through the season, getting more comfortable with college play," McLemore said. "Having a nice rotation with Austin, knowing I can play as hard as I can. He can come in and give quality minutes at the same time, just gives me more incentive to play harder."
Auburn (14-8, 3-6) trailed throughout.
After a cold start by Auburn, Harper hit a pair of 3-pointers and Heron hit one with the shot clock , running down in a 7-0 run that pulled Auburn within 2 at 16-14.
Tennessee answered with a 15-0 run to take a 31-14 lead at the under 8 media timeout.
Harper stopped the run with another 3, adding two more before the half. He hit 5 3's in the half, scoring 18 of Auburn's 30 first-half points.
Admiral Schofield led Tennessee with 18. Grant Williams added 17 for the Vols.
Auburn plays at Alabama Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The Tigers beat their instate rivals 84-64 Jan. 21 at Auburn Arena.
"We've got to rebound from it, pay attention to the scout and just learn from this one," McLemore said. "Pay more attention to defensive rebounding, like always, and make it a learning process."
"Just remembering what we did to be successful against them the first time," Harper said. "It's definitely going to be a lot harder. They're at home in their environment, so they're going to be playing their best. We have to be able to lock in and be together as a team to win."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer