Auburn Falls Short in Knoxville to Dash SEC Hopes

KNOXVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 28: Auburn Tigers forward Johni Broome (4) controls the ball against Tennessee Volunteers forward Jonas Aidoo (0) and Tennessee Volunteers forward Tobe Awaka (11) during the college basketball game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Auburn Tigers on February 28, 2024, at Food City Center in Knoxville, TN. (Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire)

The Auburn Tigers were defeated in Knoxville at the hands of the Tennessee Volunteers by a score of 92-84.

With star forward Jaylin Williams returning unexpectedly quickly from injury, hopes were high that the Tigers may be able to pull of the road upset and stay in the SEC regular season title race.

But it was Dalton Knecht of Tennessee who stole the show with 39 points and established himself as the clear cut and likely unanimous SEC Player of the Year.

It was competitive throughout the night and especially in the second half, with no team ever leading by double-digits and Auburn holding an 8 point lead with under 10 minutes to play.

Knecht was simply too much for Auburn to deal with, however, forcing Auburn into giving up 90 points for the first time all season and with a 27-point second half that ultimately was the difference.

For Auburn, Johni Broome was sensational once again, scoring 23 points along with nine rebounds and five assists.

Jaylin Williams was solid in his return as well, scoring 12 in 21 minutes of action with four assists and three rebounds.

After the game, head coach Bruce Pearl emphasized the fact that a loss like this where the Tigers had a great chance to win down the stretch will sting.

“The hardest thing I think we’ll have to do all year right now is recover from this…we came here to try to win a championship. We did enough things to win the game, you score 84 points on the road against a good defensive team like Tennessee you should be able to win. We couldn’t stop them defensively,” Pearl said.

Auburn now sits two games behind both Tennessee and Alabama (12-3) at 10-5. The Tigers face a rematch of Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon, who beat them in Starkville several weeks ago.