KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Auburn coach Bruce Pearl downplayed the personal impact of earning his first win at Tennessee since his own six-year stint with the Volunteers.
He preferred to discuss the giant step his new team took in earning its 11th straight victory.
Bryce Brown and Jared Harper each scored 18 points Tuesday night as Auburn erased an early 14-point deficit to beat No. 23 Tennessee 94-84 in its Southeastern Conference opener. Auburn (13-1, 1-0 SEC) extended its longest winning streak since a 14-game run in 1999-2000.
“I’m celebrating it because we got a road win against a nationally ranked team with an Auburn program that hasn’t been very good in a while,” said Pearl, who coached Tennessee to six straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 2006-11 before getting fired amid an NCAA investigation. “That’s why it’s a big win.”
Pearl owns a 2-4 record against the Vols as Auburn’s coach, including a 1-2 mark at Thompson-Boling Arena. He’s in his fourth season at Auburn and trying to help the Tigers earn their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2003.
Auburn hasn’t finished above 11th in the SEC standings in each of Pearl’s first three seasons but has garnered some respect with its fast start this year.
“To be honest with you, we actually expected to do this,” Brown said. “We knew we were going to have a lot of people doubt us, but this is what we expected. This is what we wanted to do, and this is our goal. We wanted to open up people’s eyes. Hopefully we did that today.”
Tennessee (9-4, 0-2) squandered an early 28-14 lead and has lost two straight games for the first time this season. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said his team got outworked and was “awful” defensively.
“I think we’re too casual,” Barnes said. “I thought tonight we played like a very casual, immature basketball team.”
Auburn withstood a career-high 25 points from Tennessee’s Lamonte Turner, who made all 13 of his free-throw attempts before fouling out. Grant Williams added 22 points, Jordan Bone had 18 and Admiral Schofield scored 13 for Tennessee.
Mustapha Heron scored 16 and Chuma Okeke added 11 for Auburn. Horace Spencer had 10 points and nine rebounds.
In a game that featured 10 lead changes in the second half alone, Auburn heated up from 3-point range to pull away down the stretch.
Auburn had missed its first nine 3-point shots of the second half before making five of its last six attempts from beyond the arc. Four of those 3-pointers came during a 2 1/2-minute span that essentially decided the game.
Brown sank the first 3-pointer to extend Auburn’s lead to 69-65 with 5:48 left. Williams converted a conventional three-point play to cut the margin to 69-68 with 5:26 remaining, but Auburn continued its 3-point flurry during an 11-0 run that put the game away.
Auburn: The Tigers have outrebounded 13 of their first 14 opponents this season and won this game primarily due to their dominance on the glass. Auburn outrebounded Tennessee 46-38 and outscored the Vols 28-18 in second-chance points. A few of Auburn’s late 3-pointers in that decisive run followed offensive rebounds.
Tennessee: After moving into the Top 25 because of its strong nonconference performance, Tennessee is off to an 0-2 start in SEC play for the first time since 2012-13. The road doesn’t get any easier for the Vols. Two of Tennessee’s next three games are against No. 17 Kentucky and No. 11 Texas A&M.
Auburn’s leading rebounder this season struggled with foul trouble, as Desean Murray played just 15 minutes. The Tigers won anyway thanks in part to the way Okeke and Spencer performed off the bench. Okeke shot 3 of 4 from 3-point range and had a number of big shots during Auburn’s decisive run.
Thanks to its rebounding edge, Auburn had 16 more field-goal attempts than Tennessee. … Auburn had gone 4 of 25 from 3-point range before shooting 5 of 6 on 3-pointers down the stretch.
Auburn hosts No. 22 Arkansas on Saturday.
Tennessee hosts No. 17 Kentucky on Saturday
More AP College Basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org
Follow Steve Megargee at www.twitter.com/stevemegargee
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.