Tennessee routs Auburn in preparation for Memphis gameFeb 21, 2008 - 6:20 AM KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- It was tempting, but Ramar Smith and second-ranked Tennessee did not look ahead to Saturday's big game.
Smith scored a season-high 19 points as Tennessee used a big early run en route to an 89-70 rout over struggling Auburn in the Southeastern Conference on Wednesday.
Tyler Smith chipped in 13 points and a career-high 13 rebounds for the Volunteers (24-2, 11-1 SEC East), who posted their eighth straight win and 30th consecutive at home.
"You saw Tennessee take its opponent very seriously, and take care of business," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "To hold Auburn to 32 percent, as good a shooting team as the Tigers are, is good testimony to our performance. They have six really good players, but the way we play makes it difficult."
Despite some shooting issues by top scorer Chris Lofton, Tennessee had a strong tuneup before it hits the road for its biggest game of the season, a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 matchup with undefeated Memphis.
This will be the third straight season where the Volunteers have squared off with the Tigers, with the two teams splitting the previous two with home wins.
"Memphis will be a great measuring stick for us Saturday," Pearl said. "We have been in some difficult places, like Xavier and Kentucky, but Saturday will be the toughest environment we will face. Their talent level is so high. After I look at the film, we will have an idea of who has the deeper bench, Memphis or Tennessee."
Leading up to the big matchup with Memphis, Tennessee set a pair of school records with the win, notching the best overall start and best start to SEC play.
Although they had dropped five of their previous six games, Auburn (13-11, 3-8 West) hung tough with the Vols in the early stages, sitting just a point down at 14-13 after a layup by Quan Prowell with just over eight minutes in.
The Tigers got no closer, as Tennessee ripped off a 17-2 run to blow open the game. Ramar Smith had consecutive baskets to open the burst and scored seven points overall.
The SEC's all-time leader in 3-pointers, Lofton did not notch his first field goal until there was 3:47 left in the first half, hitting a shot from the arc to start an 11-2 run that gave the Vols a 46-20 lead at the break.
"They are better than anybody we have played," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "Their explosiveness offensively is what separates them. What makes it so hard is they have different people every night who can get you 18-19 points."
Tennessee displayed that balance as Lofton, who finished 4-of-10 from the field, did not get another field goal until there was 9:05 left in the second half. Yet, that did not slow down Tennessee, which opened up an 83-54 cushion on a 3-pointer by Ramar Smith with 4:55 to go.
Losing to the Vols for the eighth time in the last 11 meetings, the Tigers put together a late 15-0 run to make the final score somewhat respectable.
Auburn made its run against Tennessee's second unit, forcing Pearl to begrudgingly bring back his starters.
"Our effort was unbelievable (in the second half)," Lebo said. "We cut it to 14 with two minutes left and they had to put their guys back in."
"I was disappointed with the way we were playing with the reserves in the game late in the second half," Pearl said. "That is why I put the starters back in. I am not worried about hurt feelings. I am worried about winning the game."
Along with JaJuan Smith, Lofton finished with 12 points. The senior guard moved past Bernard King for sixth place on the school's career scoring list with 1,972.
Wayne Chism had nine points and J.P. Prince added eight for Tennessee, which shot 51.5 percent (35-of-68) from the field and finished with a 44-40 advantage on the boards.
Frank Tolbert scored 24 points and Prowell added 21 for Auburn, which shot 32 percent (20-of-63).
- NCAA BB
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
AUBURN 20 50 70
TENNESSEE (2) 46 43 89 FINAL
Feb 20 9:27 PM
- NCAA BB
(2) TENNESSEE 46 HALFTIME
Feb 20 8:22 PM
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- Tennessee relying more on its freshmen late in season Feb 29
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- Pearl: Auburn's Kareem Canty leaves team, school to turn pro Feb 12
- Auburn will be without leading scorer against Tennessee Feb 8
- Auburn top scorer Kareem Canty suspended indefinitely Feb 6
- Tennessee falls below .500, second-half collapses a concern Feb 1
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