The last week of the season will present two of the Volunteer’s most important games this year, and not because of the opponents but because of what’s on the line. The Vols are fighting for one of the final at large bids to get in the NCAA tournament.
Tennessee (17-11, 9-7 SEC) is coming off a crushing loss at the hands of Georgia on Saturday. The Vols had won their previous six games and had gained a lot of momentum going in March before the 78-68 loss to the Bulldogs.
On Wednesday night the Volunteers will take on the Auburn Tigers (9-20, 3-13 SEC). Auburn hasn’t won a game since an ugly 49-37 win over Alabama at home on February 6th. The Tigers are currently riding a seven game losing streak.
The Vols will need guard Trae Golden to play better then he did against Georgia. The improved play of Tennessee over the last month coincided with the return of Golden from injury. Golden came back from his hamstring strain and played his best basketball of the year, averaging 18.6 points during the Vol’s six game winning streak. The simple fact is when Golden plays well, the Vols play well. On Saturday, against Georgia, Golden scored only 4 points, on 1-of-10 shooting.
Guard Jordan McRae tried to take the team on his back, scoring 35 points, shooting 8-of-11 from behind the three-point line in 39 minutes of game action. The junior from Marietta, GA has averaged just under 30 points a game over his last four games. Over that same stretch McRae is shooting 62% from behind the arc, hitting 20-of-32 three-point attempts.
The Volunteers will also need Jarnell Stokes to continue his strong play. Stokes has been a terror on the boards over the past month-and-a-half, averaging 11.8 rebounds a game over that span.
If Tennessee plans on making the NCAA tournament they will have to put the loss to Georgia behind them and put their full attention on Auburn. Just because the Tigers have only one win in nearly two months, doesn’t mean they can’t be a dangerous team. Any road game can present problems for any team, and the Vol’s are no different.
Tennessee and Auburn will tip off at 9:00 pm est on Wednesday night from Auburn Arena.
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