Kentucky travelled to Auburn to face the number 10 team in the nation with a chance for a big time win for seeding and a chance to end the three-game losing skid.
Unfortunately, the Cats couldn’t get the job done in crunch time and lost their 4th in a row 76-66.
When the game got started, Auburn couldn’t buy a basket as they started 1/16 from the field. However, Kentucky didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to blow open a big lead and were only up 3 when the Tiger got hot. Auburn jumped out to a lead, but Kentucky wouldn’t go away.
The Cats continued to battle throughout the half and finally got into a rhythm on offense. They couldn’t get the stops they needed on defense and found themselves down 39-33 at the half.
The second half started much like the first half ended with both teams scoring and neither team making stops. Kentucky cut the lead to 4 at the first media timeout and took the lead 49-48 with just over 13 minutes to play.
Kentucky went up 57-53 and had all the momentum and control of the game with 8 minutes to play. Then a missed three by Hami and a bad turnover by Hami changed that momentum and changed the game.
Thoughts on the game
Kevin Knox was great for 27 minutes
Knox came out of the gate aggressive and looking for shots. He kept us in the game in the first half and was exactly the type of player we needed him to be. However, at times this season he has been known the go away from the aggressiveness and it happened again tonight. Knox had 19 points with 13 minutes to play and finished the game with 19 points and didn’t attempt another shot. That just can’t happen when he is supposed to be the best player on the floor.
Hamidou Diallo has some big issues
Hami hasn’t played well for awhile now and it continued tonight. He finished with 3 points on 1/5 shooting and had 4 turnovers. At this point I believe some lineup changes are in order. He only played in 16 minutes, but it’s clear he doesn’t need to be starting, and he needs to be as far away from the crunch-time lineup as possible. He’s just killing this team at too many crucial moments in games.
Quade should be the main ball handler
I know that Shai has played really well all season for us, but he needs to be playing off the ball. When Quade is the point guard the offense has a much better flow and the ball movement is greatly improved. Shai doesn’t have the same passing ability of Quade and the offense is stagnant when he is the point.
PJ Washington showed improvement
Ever since PJ was hurt in the Tennessee game he hasn’t been the same. Tonight, we saw some of the old PJ back in action. He finished with 13 points on 4/9 shooting and grabbed 5 rebounds and he also played some really good interior defense. Hopefully he can build off this performance going forward.
Our size advantage didn’t help
We were so much bigger than Auburn, but it didn’t look like it on the floor. We only won the rebound battle 36-34 and gave up 9 offensive rebounds. That is unacceptable with how much bigger we were than Auburn and hurt us down the stretch.
Even though we lost this game we have a really important game coming up on Saturday against Alabama. A game that is a must win and could go a long way into locking up a tournament spot. We need the fans to be behind the team and pack Rupp on Saturday.
Here are the postgame notes from Wednesday, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is 17-9 overall, 6-7 in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn is 23-3 overall and atop the league standings at 11-2.
- Kentucky leads the series 92-19, including 30-15 at Auburn.
- Next for the Wildcats: Kentucky plays host to Alabama on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will be televised by CBS.
In the First Half
- Kentucky’s starting lineup featured Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Wenyen Gabriel, Kevin Knox and Nick Richards for the second time this season. UK is 1-1 with this lineup.
- Kentucky opened the scoring when Kevin Knox hit a 3-pointer at the 18:50 mark, extending UK’s streak of 1,039 consecutive games with a 3-pointer.
- UK got off to a good start on defense, as Auburn made only 1 of its first 16 shots, including 0 of 9 from 3-point range. That helped the Wildcats to an early 10-4 lead.
- Auburn got hot and went on a 12-2 spurt, taking the lead at 16-12.
- The Tigers stayed in front the rest of the half and went to intermission ahead 39-33.
- After missing the first nine 3-point tries, the Tigers hit six of their last eight of the first half.
- Knox led the UK effort in the first half with 12 points.
- UK is now 6-6 this season when trailing or tied at halftime.
In the Second Half
- Trailing 48-42, UK went on a 7-0 run and regained the lead with 13 minutes remaining.
- UK was still leading, 59-55, when Auburn struck with a 13-2 run for a 68-61 Tiger advantage.
- UK fought back within 68-64 but got no closer as Auburn went on to win.
- Kentucky has its first four-game losing streak since the end of the 2008-09 regular season. It is Coach John Calipari’s first four-game losing streak since Memphis lost four in a row to end the 2004-05 regular season.
- UK is 42-12 in “bounce back” games under Calipari following a loss.
- UK is 51-26 under Calipari against ranked teams.
- UK did not win tonight despite holding Auburn to 36.7 percent field-goal shooting. UK is now 162-14 under Calipari when keeping the opponent under 40 percent from the field.
- Auburn shot 29.6 percent from three-point range today, 8 of 27. UK entered the game third in the nation in 3-point defense at 29.1 percent.
- UK opponents also are attempting threes at a record rate. Opponents are averaging 25.4 long balls per game, well ahead of the UK opponent record of 23.2 3-pointers attempted in the 2007-08 season.
- UK used its size advantage to win the rebounding, 36-34.
- UK grabbed nine offensive rebounds and won second-chance points 12-7. It is the first time this season that UK didn’t win the game despite leading second-chance points.
- UK also won points in the paint, 36-20.