The first half was exactly like many expected, a fast pace game.
When either team got a stop, it was an outlet pass and run. Kentucky seemed to have a nice hold on the game, until an ankle injury to TyTy Washington, took him out for the last 8+ minutes of the first half.
From that point on, they needed different individuals to step up especially on offense. The key to the first twenty minutes was defense though, as they forced eight turnovers allowing the team to get out in transition.
In the second half the Auburn depth started to show, as the Cats battled injuries once again. Although the flaws showed throughout the half, the team continued to fight cutting it to four late.
Overall though, they just couldn't keep up enough offensively to really get over the hump.
Let's take a look at a few quick risers and fallers from the game.
After a tough performance in College Station on Wednesday, Wheeler responded about as well as you could ask.
He was the engine that drove this team in the first half on both ends of the floor, stifling Auburn’s guards pushing the play out to mid-court in several different occasions.
If not for the injury in the second half, it is very likely his aggressiveness and passion he brings could have been enough to keep the game closer than it was. He finished the afternoon with 17 points on 7/12 shooting from the field, and four assists.
It is obvious Sahvir is the point guard for this team. He does have his fair share of struggles, but this team needs him to reach their ceiling.
After a tough shooting night on Wednesday, Grady got back into rhythm knocking down four threes against the Tigers.
He finished with 17 points, while adding two rebounds and an assist.
Grady scored over 2,000 points at Davidson for a reason, and you saw a little more of that action here. He will be needed down the stretch in more capacities than just a three point threat.
Oscar Tshiebwe vs. length
Oscar is a beast in the paint, but he does struggle with length. All afternoon, he had trouble finishing over Walker Kessler at the rim which is not ideal for this team to really reach their potential.
Now on the flip side, Oscar continues to be a beast on the boards. He continually out fought Kessler or other Auburn bigs for rebounds, but the jury is still out on how does the big-guy handle the pressure when his opposition brings some length to the matchup.
When TyTy went down half-way through the first half, Wheeler took over all of the minutes as the lead guard. When he went down after running into a hard screen in the second-half, it then turned Davion Mintz and Grady to be the on-ball guards. The offense stalled out from there.
When this team is at full strength they are an elite offense. When not they really do struggle to create anything easy. Could be a storyline to watch come March.
Going up against Jabari Smith was always going to be tough, and the combo of Jacob Toppin and Keion Brooks did well to contain him offensively for the most part. It is their own offense that leaves people wanting more.
Whether be in the mid-range or posting up a mismatch on the block, there needs to be some sort of threat coming from that spot consistently. Over the last several weeks, this position has been nothing short of a wave, having good games one night, then disappearing the next.
Eventually, it has to even out, but it is frustrating to this point to say the least.
Now, here are the postgame notes via UK Athletics.
Team Records, Series Notes, Etc.
- Kentucky ended a four-game winning streak and is now 15-4 on the season and 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference.
- Auburn has a 15-game winning streak and is 18-1 overall, 7-0 in the conference.
- This game marked the third of five consecutive games for Kentucky against teams that had a combined record of 64-13 when the stretch began Jan. 15.
- The Wildcats lead the series, 96-23, including 31-18 at Auburn. However, Auburn has won the last three matchups held in Auburn Arena.
- Next for Kentucky: UK returns home to host Mississippi State on Tuesday. Game time is 9 p.m. and it will be televised on ESPN.
- Kentucky shot 50% percent from the field, 29 of 58, and the Wildcats are now 9-1 this season when making at least half their shots in a game.
- Auburn shot 56.8% percent from the field (25 of 44), the highest percentage by a UK opponent this season.
- UK led by 10 points in the first half. UK is 300-13 under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points during the game, including 14-1 this season.
- Kentucky was outrebounded, 27-26. The Wildcats are 0-3 this season when losing or tying the boardwork.
- Auburn’s work at the foul line was a difference-maker as the Tigers made 24 of 29. The Wildcats shot well at the charity stripe but got to the line only 10 times, making eight.
- Sahvir Wheeler scored 17 points, the second game in a row he led the team in scoring, and chipped in four assists.
- Making 4 of 7 on 3-pointers, Kellan Grady tied for UK scoring honors with 17 points.
- Over the last 10 games he is averaging 14.1 points per game while shooting 48.4 percent from the field (47 of 97), including 46.1 percent (35 of 76) from 3-point range.
- It is the seventh time this season he has made at least four 3-pointers in a game.
- Oscar Tshiebwe totaled 16 points and 14 rebounds.
- It is his 13th double-double of the season, ranking third in the nation in that category.
- The nation’s leading rebounder has grabbed double-figure boards in all but two games this season.
- TyTy Washington Jr. incurred an ankle injury at the 8:20 mark of the first half and did not return. He totaled four points and one assist in nine minutes of action.
- John Calipari is now 354-97 at UK.
- Calipari remains one win short of No. 800 and has a 799-237 all-time on-court record.
- Since 2005-06, Calipari is 114-56 on the road at UK and Memphis.
- UK is 65-41 vs. Associated Press ranked competition under Calipari, including 1-3 vs. teams ranked No. 2.
- Calipari is now 13-6 vs. Auburn, all at Kentucky.
- Calipari has tallied a 372-118 all-time record within conference play as a head coach and owns a 164-52 record since joining the SEC.
In the First Half
- The starting lineup featured Sahvir Wheeler, TyTy Washington Jr., Kellan Grady, Keion Brooks Jr. and Oscar Tshiebwe for the third consecutive game. UK is now 12-4 with that starting lineup this season.
- Trailing 7-4, Kentucky went on a 13-0 spurt for a 17-7 lead.
- Jacob Toppin was UK’s first substitute at the 13:33 mark but picked up two quick fouls.
- UK got six steals in the first 11 minutes of the game, leading to 13 points off turnovers and a 23-16 lead.
- Auburn’s Walker Kessler got a pair of dunks in the final minute, narrowing UK’s lead to 33-29 at halftime. UK is 14-2 this season when leading at intermission.
- UK won points off turnovers 15-5 and fast-break points 11-0 in the opening period.
- Wheeler had eight points and Grady seven in the first half, while Tshiebwe had six points and eight rebounds.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky began the second half with Wheeler, Davion Mintz, Grady, Brooks and Tshiebwe.
- With UK ahead 38-33, Auburn went on a 12-2 run to reclaim for a 45-40 advantage, their first lead since early in the game.
- UK fought back to tie at 45 but a pair of 3-pointers by Wendell Green Jr. sparked an 11-2 spurt to put the Tigers ahead for good.
- Wheeler returned at 8:41.
- Auburn lengthened their largest lead to 64-52, all totaled a 31-14 run since trailing by five points early in the half.
- Kentucky kept scrapping and a Grady 3-pointer with 3:10 to go cut the lead to 68-64 but the Wildcats got no closer.
- Grady and Tshiebwe led the second-half scoring with 10 points each in the final stanza.