What does Kentucky basketball have left to play for this season? Pride? Development? Draft position? The future?
They had better figure it out before Auburn comes into town on Saturday.
Despite a disappointing record, Auburn remains one of the most dangerous teams in the conference. Sharife Cooper continues to dazzle with his passing ability and he has really picked up his point production, leading the team with 20.2 points per game.
The Tigers have four players hitting three-point shots at a 35% clip or better, though one of them is freshman Justin Powell (11.7 ppg), who hasn’t played since Jan. 2nd due to a serious concussion. It doesn’t sound like the Kentucky native will play this weekend, and he didn’t play in the first matchup either.
Even without Powell, Auburn still has plenty of offensive threats, including sophomore guard Allen Flanigan (13.9 ppg), sophomore forward Jaylin Williams (10.9 ppg) and sophomore guard Devan Cambridge (12.3 ppg over last four games).
Flanigan (21), Cambridge (13) and Cooper (11) combined for 55 of the Tigers’ 66 points in their win over the Cats in Auburn Arena back on Jan. 16th. If their offense gets rolling this time around, it will be tough for Kentucky to keep up.
However, the Wildcats did score 80 points in their last outing. It was a heartbreaking loss to Arkansas that slipped out of Kentucky’s hands in the final seconds. But they were able to score at a much higher clip than normal. They will need to score in bulk on Saturday to keep up with Auburn.
In the teams’ first meeting, Kentucky was able to hold Auburn to 66 points. However, the Wildcats were only able to muster 59 points of their own. You would have to think that, defensively, holding the Tigers to 66 points again would be a good goal. But has the offense improved enough to beat that score?
BJ Boston is Kentucky’s leading scorer, as of now. He and Keion Brooks have been going back and forth on that. So it would be great if both of these guys could have a big game at the same time. Now that Dontaie Allen is no longer a secret, opposing defenses are locked in and he has only scored three total points in the last three games. He has to find ways to get open.
Besides those three, anyone else scoring in bulk is a bonus. We have seen others do it, but nobody else on the roster has consistently contributed in the points category, which I hear is pretty important.
For the most part, Kentucky has a large size advantage in this matchup. It would be a great opportunity for Oliver Sarr to show what we have hoped to see from him all season. It may also be a game where Isaiah Jackson can play above the rim and take advantage of alley-oops as Boston and Brooks draw double-teams.
This is, by no means, a huge game for Kentucky. But losing five games in a row, with three of them at home, is fairly unheard of in Lexington (before this season). Whether or not the team is deciding to play for pride, I am sure Big Blue Nation would love to see the current losing streak in Rupp Arena come to an end. The Cats will have an opportunity to win it Saturday at 1 p.m.
Kentucky Wildcats (5-13) vs. Auburn Tigers (11-10)
Game Time: 1 pm EST on February 13th
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY
TV Channel: 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: Stream the game online using CBSSports.com.
Odds: ESPN BPI gives Kentucky a 64.3% chance of victory.
Last Game Box Scores: UK | AUB
Odds: Kentucky opened as a 2-point favorite. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky a 64.3% chance of winning, while KenPom gives the home team a 57% chance of winning.
Predictions: TeamRankings projects a 71-70 win for the Cats. KenPom is going with a 72-70 victory for Kentucky.