At one point, Kentucky was outscoring Auburn 46-17 in the second half before the Tigers ended the game on an 8-0 run with walk-ons finishing things out.
Reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe was at the forefront of that dominating style of play Saturday. The Cats ended with 41 rebounds, 12 of them on the offensive glass, while Tshiebwe grabbed 17 boards by himself and scored a game-high 22 points.
The Tigers had just 17 boards total and 13 turnovers vs. four assists.
While Kentucky only entered as a 5.5-point favorite, they quickly showed why they are one of the best teams in basketball. Tigers head coach Bruce Pearl even admitted such postgame, saying the Tigers were “no match” for the Wildcats’ physicality, something that was a big issue much of the season and led to this team being firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble before the last week.
“They are literally bigger and stronger at every position,” Pearl said of Kentucky. “And their physicality, we were no match for. So, they’re playing really well together.”
Pearl also added that “Auburn was not competitive at all today.”
Auburn is 19-9 this season, so it certainly wasn’t a team that has been steamrolled like this often. They lost against Alabama by eight and at Tennessee by three this month, so this type of performance was more of a rarity from the Tigers.
But, as Pearl noted, it was also just a showing of how powerful the Cats can be, especially when Tshiebwe is enforcing his will on the opponent.
Kentucky, now firmly off the bubble, will look to further end regular-season play on a high note when they host Vanderbilt and play at Arkansas next week. Win those two games, and the Wildcats, currently projected as an 8 seed, may get into that 6-seed range for the Big Dance.
Coach Pearl talks with the media post game! pic.twitter.com/hDkYiqbA2P— Dylan Ballard (@DylanBallard_UK) February 26, 2023