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March 5, 2014

'Extremely disappointing' loss for the Tigers


AUBURN | With less than one minute left in the game, head coach Tony Barbee pulled Allen Payne, Chris Denson and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum-his three seniors-to the sound of a standing ovation from the half empty Auburn Arena.

It was Senior Night and the Tigers wanted to send their graduating teammates out with a win. Instead, they suffered their worst Southeastern Conference loss of the season as Tennessee coasted to an 82-54 victory.

After Tennessee romped to a 10-0 start, the Tigers scored two baskets to make it 11-4. The Vols followed up with a 13-0 run and for the last 30 minutes of the game, Auburn never got within 17 points.

"It's extremely disappointing," junior K.T. Harrell said. "We really wanted to get this for (the seniors) since it's their last time playing in the Arena."

After going into halftime down 44-20, Payne and Dixon-Tatum came out shooting in the second half and gave Auburn hope with a few strong points in the post.

Still, their fight was not enough.

"I saw a team whose offense again bogged down in the first half like the last game," coach Tony Barbee said. "Again we dug ourselves a hole. Couldn't get any shots to go down. Missed a lot of layups. But I saw a team that kept fighting. I'm proud of the guys for that, just disappointed for our seniors that they couldn't go out on a winning note."

Surprisingly, it was Denson, the SEC's second leading scorer, who failed to get anything going offensively in his last game in Auburn.

Denson finished with 3 points after shooting 1-10 from the floor and only drawing three free throws.

Over the past two games, the normally sharp-shooting Denson shot 3-25. His head coach blamed the scoring title for his lack of offensive success recently.

"I think he's pressing and thinking about the whole leading the SEC in scoring deal," Barbee said. "It's hard to play under that pressure. If you put all the pressure on, 'I've got to score,' it's hard to focus on anything else."

Tennessee (19-11, 10-7) outshined Auburn in nearly every statistical category to ensure Auburn's seniors would not enjoy their final game in the Auburn Arena.

After losing five of the last seven games, it may have also been Barbee's last game on The Plains.

Auburn's head coach declined to answer a question about his job security by saying he was only looking forward to the Tigers' next game at Texas A&M (17-13, 8-9).

Auburn (13-15, 5-12) will play the Aggies at College Station this Saturday.

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