After suffering what coach Bruce Pearl called the “most disappointing” defeat of the season, Auburn fell out of the AP Top 25 poll and will face another road challenge at Texas A&M on Tuesday night in College Station, Texas.
The Tigers (17-6, 7-3 Southeastern Conference) had their worst shooting night of the season in their 46-43 loss at Tennessee on Saturday, going 13 of 55 from the field overall (23.6 percent) and 3-of-27 (11.1 percent) from 3-point range.
The woeful offense wasted a solid effort on defense that held the Volunteers to 27 percent shooting from the field.
“We had a chance to beat the No. 2 team in the country,” Pearl said. “The kids did an incredible job defensively. I can’t compliment our kids enough for the way they locked into the scouting report. The effort and the energy, the tough, the fight — I’m very proud of my team.
“But I’ve got to do a better job of helping them get better looks at the end.”
The loss also cost the Tigers in the SEC race, putting them in a tie with Kentucky for fourth place behind Alabama, the Vols and the Aggies (16-7, 8-2).
A loss to the Aggies would put the Tigers in a precarious position in the race for one of four double byes in the SEC tournament that go to the top finishers.
In addition to the loss to Tennessee, the Tigers lost the first meeting at home to the Aggies on Jan. 25, leaving them 0-2 when it comes to tie-breakers with A&M and Tennessee.
The play of K.D. Johnson was one of the few bright spots at Tennessee. He scored 10 points off the bench, his third consecutive double-figure scoring effort.
“K.D. is a great athlete,” Pearl said. “When you’re playing the best teams on your schedule, you need his athleticism and his experience. His effort and his attitude have been really consistent.”
The Aggies are coming off an 82-57 wipeout of Georgia on Saturday. They shot an 50 percent from the field (30 of 60) and won the rebounding battle 43-30 in posting their third win in the past four games.
Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams credits the maturity his team is showing for the play that has them in contention for one of the top spots in the conference. Senior Tyrece Radford and junior Henry Coleman III scored 15 points apiece against Georgia. Grad student Dexter Dennis had 12 points.
“I think the young adults are holding the older adults accountable,” Williams said.
–Field Level Media