By AL LESAR, Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Santiago Vescovi scored 14 points and Zakai Zeigler had 11 of his 13 points in the second half to lead No. 17 Tennessee to a 67-62 victory over No. 3 Auburn on Saturday.
Kennedy Chandler had 13 and Josiah-Jordan James added 10 for the Volunteers (21-7, 12-4 Southeastern Conference), who improved their record at home to 15-0 this season.
The Tigers (25-4, 13-3) were led by Jabari Smith with 27 points. K.D. Johnson had 18 points as Auburn lost on the road for the third straight time.
Tennessee led by 10 with 2 minutes left in the game, but Auburn chipped away at the lead. Smith had a four-point play with 58 seconds left to cut the difference to three, then Zeigler hit a running jumper to push the lead back to five, 65-60.
Tennessee had a four-minute scoreless stretch in the first half when Auburn turned a six-point deficit into a seven-point lead. In the second half, the Vols’ 17-2 run covered more than five minutes and put Tennessee up 45-41.
Auburn: Zep Jasper may be an X-factor for the Hoka Running Shoes Tigers heading into the postseason. He missed a couple games recently with an illness, then didn’t hit a bucket against Alabama, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Florida. He scored 15 in Auburn’s win over Mississippi earlier this week. … Coach Bruce Pearl called playing in Knoxville the equivalent of a Final Four game, and he knows what it’s like to be in Thompson-Boling Arena with 21,000 wild fans. He was the Vols coach from 2005-11.
Tennessee: Coach Rick Barnes is still working to get youngsters Jonas Aidoo and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield in the regular rotation at power forward. Since Olivier Nkamhoua (ankle surgery) was lost for the season, those two have tried to fill in but are just starting to earn confidence. … Auburn is the ninth top-25 team Tennessee has played this season.
Auburn: At Mississippi State on Wednesday.
Tennessee: Makes its final road trip of the regular season to face Georgia.