As the game turned: Although the Volunteers led wire-to-wire Wednesday night, their second SEC win of the season wasn't firmly secured until the final minutes.
"They did a great job of playing hard," junior guard Josh Richardson said, "and they stayed in the game the entire second half. They had small runs, but we had the same thing. I feel like that is a testament to our experience."
A seesawing first half saw Tennessee lead by double-digits on three separate occasions, but the Tigers trailed by only five at the break after a Malcom Canada 3-pointer beat the halftime buzzer.
Jordan McRae — after a relatively quiet first half — delivered down the stretch when the Vols needed him most, reeling off a personal 7-0 run mid-way through the second half that upped the UT lead to 10.
"I didn't think he had good composure in the first half," head coach Cuonzo Martin said of McRae, who scored 14 points after the break. "I thought he settled down in the second half."
McRae hit five free throws in the game's final minute as well.
Hot topic: Following Jarnell Stokes' foul trouble-ridden performance on Saturday, in which the junior forward posted his lowest scoring game since the Vols' season-opener at Xavier, the Memphis, Tenn., native responded in typical fashion, producing his eighth double-double of the year (14 points, 14 rebounds).
Stokes, who also turned in a season-high 38 minutes, continues to deal with a lingering shoulder injury, according to Martin.
"I think his shoulder was better," Martin said. "To his defense, he's not a guy that is going to complain about it. His shoulder, it's a legitimate issue. I thought it was better tonight with rehab, ice. He was able to be more aggressive. I think that was the case."
Spotlight: In Saturday's contest versus Texas A&M, ongoing foul trouble saw UT rely heavily on its role players as the Volunteer bench turned in 44 minutes in the loss. The script changed on Wednesday as all but one starter exceeded the 30-minute plateau.
"Guys didn't seem fatigued when they came out of the game," Martin said, "so we just rolled with it."
With UT's starting lineup on the court for 85 percent of the game, the scoring wealth was spread around significantly as Wednesday's victory marked the first time all five starters scored in double-digits since Feb. 15, 2012 in a win over Arkansas.
"It is definitely nice," Richardson said. "It shows how much balance we have, and it shows how many weapons we have on the court. People can't double up anybody or help too deep because we are just going to make them pay for it every time."
The other guys: Chris Denson led the Tigers with 24 points, and K.T. Harrell chimed in with another 15 as Auburn fell to 0-3 in the SEC.
Outside the box score: After speaking to the Vols at Tuesday's practice, Hall of Famer Bernard King was recognized during the second media timeout of the first half.
Say something: Richardson on if he felt any fatigue after playing 38 minutes: "Nah I was chillin'. I wasn't bad at all."
By the numbers:
17: UT outscored Auburn 17-2 in fast break points.
0: The Vols had zero bench points in the first half.
25: Martin's squad shot 25 free throws in the second half, knocking down 20.
Up next: The Vols travel to Rupp Arena on Saturday as they take on No. 13 Kentucky. Tipoff is slated for noon and will be nationally-televised on CBS.