What initially looked like a potentially disastrous Saturday for the Kentucky Wildcats ended up being a great one.
The Cats began the day in a dogfight with Ole Miss in a game they could have easily lost, but clutch plays down the stretch helped UK hold on for a 67-62 win over the Rebels. That briefly put UK ahead by a half game in the SEC regular-season title race, and by day’s end, the Cats found themselves all alone at the top.
LSU went on the road to face a hot-shooting Alabama team, and the Crimson Tide would win an 88-82 shootout thanks to 27 points from Kira Lewis and 26 from Jaden Shackleford.
Later in the day. Auburn faced Missouri Columbia, and the home Tigers came away with an 85-73 victory over Bruce Pearl’s bunch.
That leaves LSU and Auburn tied for second place in the league at 9-3, while UK is narrowly ahead at 10-2.
This is far from the end of the race, as UK travels to LSU on Tuesday, then hosts Auburn on February 29th.
UK also has a pair of challenging games against Florida, who will be desperate for a signature win to ensure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Outside of UK, Auburn’s most difficult remaining game is at Tennessee, while LSU’s biggest non-UK challenge is at Florida.
One key factor in this race will be the health of Auburn star Isaac Okoro, who missed today’s game with a hamstring injury, and it’s unclear how long he’ll be sidelined. Without him, Auburn would be hard pressed to keep up with UK and LSU down the stretch, as he’s been one of the league’s best players this season.
It’s going to be a close race to the very end, but for the first time in a long time, the Cats are the favorite to win the regular-season crown, which would be their first since the 2016-17 season.