Auburn Tigers (24-4) at Kentucky Wildcats (23-5)
- Game Time: 3:45 pm EST on Saturday, February 29th.
- Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
- TV Channel: Saturday’s game can be viewed on CBS.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington, and on the UK Sports Network.
- Online radio: TuneIn broadcast or UKAthletics.com.
- Online Stream: The game can be streamed online at CBSSports.com.
- Replay: SEC Network (check local listings).
- Odds: Kentucky is a 7-point favorite as of Saturday morning. ESPN BPI gives Kentucky a 69% chance of victory. KenPom gives the home team a 68% chance of winning.
- Rosters: UK | AUB
- Live Stats
- Predictions: KenPom projects a 73-68 victory for Kentucky. TeamRankings projects a 73-66 win for the Wildcats. numberFire is going with a 74-69 win for the home team.
As the regular season winds down, the Kentucky Wildcats are hitting their stride at the right time.
Since losing to the Auburn Tigers, Kentucky has won seven games in a row, and it looks like things are starting to click across the board. They get their chance to avenge that loss on Saturday as the Tigers will be in Lexington for a 3:45 tip.
Since that loss, Immanuel Quickley has emerged as the favorite for SEC Player of the Year. In that span, he has averaged 21.6 points per game and has become Kentucky’s go-to player when they need a bucket. Aside from Tuesday at Texas A&M, Nick Richards has continued to be one of the best big men in America.
However, Kentucky’s struggles taking care of the ball continue to be a problem. Ashton Hagans sometimes tries to do to much, and other times does not do enough to take care of the basketball. Unfortunately, the last time he went on a turnover bender like he’s on now was in the Elite Eight last year against...the Auburn Tigers.
Auburn has gone 5-2 since their last matchup with the Wildcats. However, they have gone 1-2 on the road with losses at Georgia and at Missouri. It seems that the Tigers are simply not the same team away from home. That could be huge for Kentucky, who odds seems to play better on the road.
It does have to be pointed out that those two losses came with Isaac Okoro sidelined with a hamstring injury. The freshman forward is projected as a first-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and for good reason. He’s the Tigers’ best defender while ranking second on the team in points (13.0) and rebounds (4.6) per game. He also ranks fifth in the SEC in two-point field goal percentage (60.4%).
Okoro usually struggles from deep at just 28.3% shooting, but he did hit 2/4 triples in the win over Kentucky, a game he finished with 14 points on 3/11 shooting in to go with three boards, two assists and two steals.
In his first game back from injury against Ole Miss this Tuesday, Okoro finished with 10 points on 3/4 shooting to go with one assist and one block in 27 minutes in Auburn’s 67-58 win over the Rebels.
Auburn is led in scoring by senior guard Samir Doughty at 16.1 points per game. He’s reached double-figures in 11-straight games, including 23 in the 75-66 win over Kentucky a month ago. He actually shot just 4/10 from the field but got to the free-throw line 15 times, hitting 14 of them. That was the game Auburn infamously shot 44 free throws and hit 33 of them to escape with the victory.
One of the biggest storylines to watch Saturday will Auburn point guard J’Von McCormick vs. Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist Ashton Hagans, as both floor generals have been struggling as of late. McCormick has just 11 assists vs. 12 turnovers over his last four games and has been held to under 10 points in three of his last five games.
For all of Hagans’ struggles, he’s still been a top-notch defender, and he can really wreak havoc Saturday if he stays out of foul trouble, something that plagued him in the loss at Auburn. He played just 20 minutes that game.
Even in their wins, Auburn has not looked like a dominant team. The Tigers had to overcome a 17-point deficit to beat Tennessee last weekend. In the other four of their last five games, they have shot 22.6%, 5.9%, 15.4%, and 28.6% from behind the three-point line, respectively. If they do not find a way to heat up their shooters, they may have a long day in Rupp on Saturday.
This is not a must-win game for Kentucky. They have put themselves in a good position to land on the 3 seed line with a strong finish to the season, even with one loss. However, the most dangerous game on the schedule is at Florida next week. So this Saturday’s game is an important one in that it will give the Wildcats insurance in case they fall on the road in Gainesville.