You know, I don't usually mind Auburn. Their mascot Aubie is cute and a great dancer. Charles Barkley will always be one of the best additions to March Madness coverage, if for nothing else than that time he lambasted "the itty bitty East" with Rick Pitino sitting just feet away. I admire their swimming and diving program, and appreciate that UK students have reciprocity at their veterinary school.
But this year? I've lost my warm and fuzzy feelings. First because they spoiled our first Thursday nigh football game at home since FDR was in office, then because they killed UK Hoops' SEC season opener. Lastly because of a certain basketball game that took place on the Plains yesterday that apparently broke Tyler Ulis's heart. I'm now screaming for revenge whenever possible. Happily? We get an opportunity to sink our claws into Tiger flesh today at Memorial, and if I'm mad I can only assume Memorial will be packed with equally agitated members of the Big Blue Nation.
Last time the Cats and Tigers had the fur flying was January 3rd, when UK Hoops had what can only be described as one of their worst offensive performances ever. 39% shooting from the field, three point shooting that was so abysmal it didn't make it to double digits, and 26 turnovers led to a 61-66 loss.
So what's different this time? A.) It's in Lexington, B.) The Cats are coming off a crushing defeat against South Carolina and are looking for blood, and C.) I've no doubt Matthew Mitchell has darned near worn holes in that film showing his squad what exactly they did wrong. And UK Hoops is nothing if not resilient this year.
How do the Cats walk off the court with a victory today?
- Playing like Wildcats. The intensity and drive simply wasn't there when the Cats took the court a few weeks ago, which is why they blew a seventeen point lead with as much interest as most of us have in understanding the finer points of cricket. This time the Cats need to be in fighting form from the opening tip to the final buzzer. No backing off, no settling. We have claws too.
- Don't fall victim in the turnover game again. Auburn's defensive is relentless. Ours can be equally suffocating, and if you don't believe me go rewatch the first quarter against Carolina. We need a very sharp passing game today because the Tigers will be looking to pounce on anything they can.
- Smart shooting saves lives. Maci Morris was 0/7 from the field in the first game. Taylor Murray was 1/6. That's incredibly unlike them, but is not uncommon for freshman in their first SEC road game. It's not happening today in the familiar confines of Memorial Coliseum.
- Make Auburn really work for their points. Folks, that team is great on defense and horrible on offense. They're shooting less than 29% from the three and are only 64% free throw shooters. If our defense can force them into taking uncomfortable shots - and I truly think Alexis and Evelyn are up to that challenge - Auburn is going to struggle.
For the second time this week, UK Hoops is on TV! That's right, today's game is televised on the SEC Network, where Nell Fortner and Cara Capuano are calling the action. Or you can tune into 630 WLAP and enjoy the work of Neil Price. However you catch the game, please stop by ASoB to share your insights as we cheer the Cats onto victory.
Until tipoff, Cat fans - GO BIG BLUE!