The No. 13 Auburn men's basketball team will return to the comforts of Auburn Arena this weekend after a two-game road trip.
The Tigers will start their two-game homestand on Saturday when they face Tennessee in a primetime matchup.
Auburn's offense struggled against Missouri, although senior center Austin Wiley continued his dominant play. Wiley has put up a double-double the last three games, averaging 16.7 points and 13.3 rebounds against LSU, Alabama and Missouri. For the season, Wiley is almost averaging a double-double at 10.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
Wiley is playing the best basketball of his career, said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, citing the senior's mobility, ability to score around the basket and get to the foul line.
"Austin doesn’t get talked about a lot, but he’s been on a double-double tear," said Pearl. "We’re doing a little better job of finding him. The problem is that there is so much contact down there, and a lot of times that stuff doesn’t get called on the road. We are definitely playing through him a little more that we did earlier in the year. I think that’s a positive thing."
The Tigers will square off against a Tennessee team that is struggling this season by recent standards. The Vols currently sit at 15-11 overall, 7-6 in conference play and 3-5 on the road.
The Vols feature five players who are scoring in double figures – John Fulkerson (13 ppg), Jordan Bowden (13), Lamonte Turner (12.3), Santiago Vescovi (11.4) and Yves Pons (11.1). Fulkerson is also the team's leading rebounds, averaging 6.2 a game.
Three-point defense is of particular concern for the Tigers, who allowed Missouri to shoot close to 54 percent beyond the arc, well above their season average of 31 percent.
The Vols don't shoot the ball particularly well beyond the arc, either, hitting only 30.4 percent of their attempts.
The Tigers haven't pressed the ball enough, said Pearl.
"Defensively, if you’ve got guys that can press up on the ball a little bit and put a little pressure on the basketball, it makes the opponent trying to run their offense more difficult. It actually creates more turnovers," he said. "The challenge then would be, ‘Can they go by you?’ That’s been our challenge for several of our players. ‘Can you guard your yard? Can you stay in front of your guy?’ Some of our guys are challenged to stay in front. Sometimes they’ll back up a little bit and not put as much pressure on the ball, not be as disruptive, give up the open 3-ball. There’s got to be a balance there. The imbalance is we just haven’t been pressed up on the ball enough. I think we were doing a better job of getting after it earlier in the season and flying around a little bit."
Following Saturday's game vs. Tennessee, the Tigers will host Ole Miss on Tuesday. Auburn picked up an 83-82 double-overtime win over the Rebels on the road in late January.
Saturday's matchup with the Vols will tip off at 11 a.m. and be televised on CBS.
Tuesday's game against the Rebels will start at 6 p.m. and be carried on the SEC Network.