Kentucky (11-5) at Auburn (8-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 19, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Auburn Arena (9,121) -- Auburn, Alabama. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: UK 9-2, Auburn 6-3. Away Record: UK 1-2, Auburn 1-2. Neutral Record: UK 1-1, Auburn 1-3. Conference Record: UK 2-1, Auburn 2-1. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 86-17.
GAME NOTES: SEC rivals duke it on Saturday night, as the Auburn Tigers entertain the Kentucky Wildcats.
Kentucky has without a doubt been one of the biggest disappointments in the nation this season. Its 11-5 record would be impressive for most programs, but considering it is the defending national champions and began the season as the nation's third-ranked team, suffering five losses already was certainly unforeseen. The Wildcats recently concluded a two-game homestand, and although they lost to Texas A&M last Saturday, they bounced back with a 75-65 win over Tennessee on Tuesday night to move to 2-1 in conference play.
Auburn put up a fight on the road against Arkansas on Wednesday night before falling in double-overtime, 88-80, for its first SEC loss of the season. The setback dropped the Tigers to 8-8 overall, but they have still won six of their last nine games.
Kentucky has dominated the all-time series with Auburn, 86-17. The Wildcats have lost to the Tigers just once in the past 27 meetings, dating back to 1990.
The Wildcats were involved in a back-and-forth battle with Tennessee earlier this week, but with the game tied at 56-56 with 6:27 to play, they ripped off a quick 8-2 run to help distance themselves down the stretch. Kentucky was stellar from the floor, making 49 percent of its total shots, and it was paced by a strong bench effort from Kyle Wiltjer, who netted 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Nerlens Noel added 12 points, six blocks and four steals, while Ryan Harrow (12 points) and Alex Poythress (10 points, eight rebounds) both put forth quality efforts as well. UK possesses a very balanced attack, which is paced by Archie Goodwin's 15.2 ppg. Poythress chips in 13.2 ppg and 6.4 rpg while shooting an astounding 63.1 percent from the field. Noel is one of the most well-rounded players in the country. Not only does he tally 10.3 ppg and 9.3 rpg, but he's put himself in the discussion as one of the best defensive players in the nation by posting 3.9 bpg and 2.8 spg. Wiltjer (10.9 ppg) and Harrow (10.3 ppg) round out the double-digit scorers for UK, which puts up 77.2 ppg on 48.5 percent shooting. It also does a great job holding opponents off the scoreboard (62.2 ppg).
Auburn tied its game against Arkansas in the waning seconds of regulation with an Allen Payne 3-pointer to force overtime, but after 10 more minutes of back- and-forth action, it ultimately fell to the Razorbacks. The Tigers kept themselves in the game by draining 50 percent of their field goal attempts, including 11-of-25 from 3-point range, but their ultimate downfall was a lackluster showing at the foul line (7-of-17) and an unsightly 19 turnovers. Frankie Sullivan was once again outstanding, scoring 26 points and grabbing nine rebounds, and he is presently the SEC's second-leading scorer at 17.8 ppg. Rob Chubb recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, which were both improvements upon his season-averages of 9.9 ppg and 7.8 rpg. Josh Wallace (six points) didn't do much damage on the scoreboard, but he dished out a career-high nine assists. Auburn has been able to stay relevant in the SEC by boasting positive margins in scoring (+3.4), rebounding (+2.4) and turnovers (+0.5).
Kentucky is far from the dominant team that it was expected to be at the start of the season, and it has shown a certain vulnerability in recent weeks, even in victory. If Auburn can play strong defense, it will have a shot to move above .500, but expect for the Wildcats to come up with some big baskets down the stretch to capture the road win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 74, Auburn 67
01/19 10:34:42 ET