Williams, Schofield lead hot Tennessee past Auburn, 87-77
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) �� Grant Williams opened the game with a 3-pointer and the resurgent Tennessee Volunteers never lost that lead.
Admiral Schofield scored 18 points and Williams added 17 to help Tennessee win its fourth straight game with an 87-77 victory Tuesday night over Auburn.
The Volunteers (13-9, 5-4 Southeastern Conference) continued their recent surge with a dominating first half, and the Tigers (14-8, 3-6) never mustered much of a threat until the final minutes. It was their second straight wire to wire win during a stretch that includes an upset of No. 8 Kentucky.
“We know this is a fun time to enjoy, and we’re doing well,” Williams said. “But when we get to game time, we know it’s time to play a game and win. We don’t worry about our record when we play a team. We go 1-0 every night and we’ve just got to keep it going.”
Schofield grabbed seven rebounds for Tennessee, which came in ranked 41st in the RPI and is making a late surge into NCAA Tournament contention. Williams continued his recent strong play despite playing only 18 minutes before fouling out. He has scored 64 points in the last four games.
Jordan Bowden added 15 points. Robert Hubbs III had 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists despite making just two of his 12 shots. The Vols led by 22 points early in the second half before Auburn started to pull closer.
“They just came out and really attacked the basket in the second half and put a lot of pressure on us and got us in some foul trouble,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Obviously we’ve got to finish the game better than we did, but you’ve got to get them all the credit for that. They didn’t quit. They kept fighting and just made it tougher on us.”
Jared Harper led Auburn with 21 points, making 5 of 7 3-pointers. He had 18 by halftime when Tennessee led 46-30 and the rest of the Tigers were 3-of-19 shooting collectively.
Ronnie Johnson scored 15 points and Mustapha Heron had 12 on 3-of-12 shooting. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said the Tigers came in knowing a loss could push them well into the bottom half of the league.
“This was probably the most pivotal game for us this season, and we did not have good preparation,” Pearl said. “We did not have good practices the two days prior, and I think the result was Tennessee played with greater effort and greater energy, greater purpose.”
Auburn pulled to within 11 points with four minutes left but couldn’t bring it to single digits until the final minute.
Williams scored 15 points in the first half but picked up his fourth foul only 15 seconds after re-entering the game with 8:12 left.
“I’m shocked when I looked at the stat sheet and saw where Grant had 17 points in 18 minutes because I felt like he never got in the game in the second half,” Barnes said. “With that happening, it got us a little out of rhythm on offense.”
Tennessee has won 11 of the last 12 meetings and three straight. …The Volunteers have won four times in opponents’ home court, up from one last season. …Tennessee made its first 12 free throws and 22 of 27 overall.
Auburn made just 25 of 66 shots (37.9 percent). Freshman Austin Wiley had five points, seven rebounds and seven turnovers. He was coming off a 25-point performance against TCU.
Tennessee remains on the road to face Mississippi State on Saturday.
Auburn visits rival Alabama on Saturday night after winning the previous meeting 84-64