In the last matchup with Auburn, we saw a close, physical contest throughout where the Cats ended up losing it at the end. In fact, it was the last loss Kentucky has had this season.
Since then, Kentucky has managed to rattle off seven straight victories. The play in each of those wins has been a tad shaky, but one thing that hasn’t been shaky is Immanuel Quickley. He has emerged as a star for this team and is coming off back-to-back 25+ point games. The Cats will need all of his effort and more to have a chance to take down this Auburn team.
We’ve gathered our staff together to give their thoughts on the matchup and offer a prediction on the big game.
Kentucky lost this matchup the first time around mainly due to two things: offensive rebounding and free throws.
I’m not sure the Cats can slow down the Tigers on the offensive boards too much, but I can guarantee they won’t shoot 44 free throws this time around. And I am confident that that will make a huge, huge difference in this game.
Ashton Hagans could have a field day with Auburn’s guards due to their propensity for turning the ball over. Tyrese Maxey has been playing solid over the last few games and I think it’s about time for him to explode with all the extra attention that will be diverted towards Immanuel Quickley.
Quickley should be able to get open shots, but I expect him to get to the free throw line a lot in this one. Nick Richards will have a tough matchup against Austin Wiley, but if he can get him in foul trouble, he should be able to take advantage. He’s been relatively quiet recently and I think he’s going to live at the line, just like IQ.
Finally, I think Nate Sestina and Johnny Juzang are going to come up big with some three-pointers, and EJ Montgomery will continue to progress, especially on defense and rebounding.
This will not be a replay of the last time these two teams met. I don’t think the game will ever really be in question, but the Tigers’ pressure hurt Kentucky last time they played and it very well could again on Saturday. Regardless, Kentucky will come out with a chip on its shoulder.
Prediction: Kentucky 73, Auburn 65
I expect a lot of tension in this one. When the Cats and the Tigers first played, you could feel it through the TV. The Cats have bad blood with Auburn, especially the sophomores and junior on this team. To know that the Tigers have beaten them in two straight games, one of those being an Elite Eight loss, these players are extremely motivated to get a win. Because of that, I think they will.
Kentucky has managed to win seven straight games behind the rise of Immanuel Quickley. Watching him last year compared to this year is like looking at two completely different players. Both he and Richards have stepped up big time to get this team to the top of the SEC with only 3 games left to play in the regular season.
Still, that’s not good enough for Kentucky. They need to take Auburn down this Saturday to show them who the true champs of the SEC are. Auburn is shaky as well right now, going 2-2 in their last four. Rupp will be rocking as the Cats win by 10+ and play their best overall game of the season.
Prediction: Kentucky 81, Auburn 67
This matchup for Kentucky already has that big game feeling to it and it isn’t even gameday yet.
With a win, the Cats will not only avenge their earlier loss to the Tigers, but they will lock up the SEC regular season title as well which is what makes this such an important game for this team.
If the Cats are going to get the win on Saturday, then they will have to avoid sending the Tigers to the free throw line as much as they did in the first meeting. The other key will be keeping Auburn off the glass, as they outrebounded Kentucky 42-28 and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds in that 75-66 loss.
However, I think that Kentucky has turned a corner since that matchup, and they will defend home court on Saturday and come away with the SEC-clinching victory.
Prediction: Kentucky 73, Auburn 67
The Wildcats should win this game with ease, and much of the reasoning has to do with how the teams are trending. Auburn as lost two of its last four while Kentucky is riding a seven-game win streak.
To add to that, Immanuel Quickley is playing the best basketball of his life, averaging 21.6 points per game over the team’s last seven. For those two reasons, the Cats should manage to down the Tigers in the two team’s second meeting this season.
Prediction: Kentucky 70, Auburn 66
With the SEC regular-season championship there for the taking you have to assume that the Cats will be dialed in for Saturday’s showdown with Tigers.
Remember, Kentucky hasn’t lost a game since their trip down to Auburn back on February 1st. Since then, they have found their groove, winning seven straight.
The home crowd should be fired up for what is the second to last game at Rupp Arena. I would expect one of the best, loudest crowds of the season on Saturday.
In my opinion it’s going to take a barrage of three pointers for Auburn to win this game. The trio of guards that Kentucky has will just be too much for Bruce Pearl’s team to handle.
The obvious focus on Quickley will open things up for a big game from Tyrese Maxey and/or Ashton Hagans.
Whew, it’s hard to believe the regular season is almost over. But what’s not hard to believe is that Coach Cal has his team playing the best basketball of the season.
The Cats make it eight straight and beat Auburn.
Prediction: Kentucky 72, Auburn 65
Saturday’s game is a key opportunity for the Wildcats to avenge one of their five losses of the season when they host No. 15 Auburn at Rupp Arena this weekend. The Tigers are going to see a different Kentucky team this weekend and one who is currently on fire with a seven-game winning streak.
One of the biggest differences will be how well Immanuel Quickley is playing right now. Quickley was Kentucky’s leading scorer against Auburn in the first matchup, but he’s taken it to another level and solidified himself as an SEC Player of the Year candidate since then. During their seven-game streak since losing at Auburn, Quickley has been averaging 21.6 points per game and will be a huge factor on Saturday if he can stay hot.
Another difference will have to be Nick Richards and Ashton Hagans. Richards wasn’t necessarily bad with seven points and seven rebounds in the first matchup, but you could just see the physicality was getting to him and he obviously wasn’t the player he had been heading into that game.
Hagans, on the other hand, really struggled with only five points and three assists to go with six turnovers in a game where he fouled out. They, along with EJ Montgomery and the bench unit, will all have to play better in order to get Kentucky a win.
This has become a pretty big rivalry because of the last two seasons and this is a prime opportunity for Kentucky to get a statement win to wind down the regular season. I do expect them to get better production from across the roster as Quickley and Maxey scored 45 of the Wildcats’ 66 points in the first game.
Another difference in this matchup will be the free-throw discrepancy. Auburn is effective at getting to the line, but I don’t see any way Bruce Pearl’s team coming into Rupp Arena and shooting an astronomical number of free throws again. I think the combination of those two things will help Kentucky get another Quad-1 win against a team that already beat them, seize the SEC regular-season title, and boost their resume for the NCAA Tournament.
That’s how you kill three birds with one stone.
Prediction: Kentucky 76, Auburn 62