On Friday, we called the matchup against Tennessee in the Jungle a must win for the Tigers. Auburn was sitting at 19-11 and 9-8 in the SEC while going 2-8 in Quad 1 matchups, and desperately needed a resume building win to secure their NCAA Tournament status headed into the SEC Tournament and avoid having to make a run in Nashville in order to make the big dance.
With a fantastic second half effort from Bruce Pearl’s bunch, Auburn took down Tennessee 79-70 even after trailing by four at halftime. The Tigers were led by 24 points and 4 assists from Wendell Green Jr. as well as 17 points and 7 rebounds from Johni Broome and 16 points from Allen Flanigan.
It cannot be understated how big of a win this was for Auburn. They entered Saturday very much on the bubble, and now head into the SEC Tournament not only with momentum, but with the weight lifted off their shoulders that goes along with the knowledge that they will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee, who now misses out on a double-bye in the SEC Tournament, will face the winner of Ole Miss vs. South Carolina on Thursday. The Tigers were able to keep the short-handed Volunteers mostly in check, with guard Santiago Vescovi as the leading scorer with 21 points and no one else scoring more than 13. Tennessee is a different team without PG Zakai Zeigler, who tore his ACL on February 28th against Arkansas.
Auburn now will face a hungry Arkansas team on Thursday night after both teams earned a first-round bye. The SEC Tournament begins on Wednesday night with the Ole Miss and South Carolina matchup as well as LSU taking on Georgia.