Auburn (9-13) at Kentucky (16-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 9, 4 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rupp Arena (23,500) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: SEC Network, MSG. Home Record: Auburn 7-5, UK 11-2. Away Record: Auburn 1-5, UK 4-3. Neutral Record: Auburn 1-3, UK 1-1. Conference Record: Auburn 3-6, UK 7-2. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 87-17.
GAME NOTES: The Kentucky Wildcats will try to continue their resurgence on Saturday afternoon, as they play host to the Auburn Tigers in an SEC tilt from legendary Rupp Arena.
Auburn was mired in its worst slump of the season heading into its last game, having lost six straight games, but it was able to capture a 49-37 win at home over Alabama on Wednesday to move to 9-13 on the season and 3-6 in the SEC. The Tigers haven't had much success away from home, winning just one of its five true road games.
As a whole, the campaign has been a rather disappointing one for Kentucky, which is 16-6 overall and unranked after beginning the season as the nation's No. 3 team. Things have been looking up for the Wildcats of late however, as they are winners of four in a row, most recently making easy work of South Carolina at home on Tuesday night, 77-55. At 7-2 in league play, they are just one game behind nationally-ranked Florida for first place.
Kentucky has dominated the all-time series with Auburn, winning 87 of the previous 104 meetings. The Wildcats won the first contest this season, 75-53, on Jan. 19, and they have now won 27 of the last 28 against the Tigers dating back to 1990.
Auburn made just three field goals in the first half as it trailed by double- digits on Wednesday night, but a 57.1 percent shooting effort after the break allowed it to overcome the Crimson Tide. The Tigers' outstanding defensive effort cannot be overshadowed, as they held Alabama to a lowly 28.6 percent shooting, and the 37 points allowed was the fewest given up to an SEC opponent since 2003. Allen Payne and Josh Wallace led the way in the defensive struggle with 11 points apiece. Frankie Sullivan had a brutal game, shooting just 1- of-13 from the field, and his season percentage has been anything but impressive (.377), although he has been able to generate enough volume to rank fourth in the SEC in scoring with 16.1 ppg. Chris Denson has only played in half his team's games, but he has been an asset with 11.5 ppg, and Rob Chubb brings some stability to the frontcourt with 9.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 1.0 bpg. As a team, Auburn has been rather mediocre with a scoring offense (66.7 ppg) and scoring defense (66.4 ppg) that are virtually identical.
Kentucky had a handle on its last game, outshooting South Carolina by an incredible margin (.614 to .288) on the way to a blowout victory. Five Wildcats scored in double figures in the win, led by 15 points by Julius Mays, who shot 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein netted 13 points apiece, Nerlens Noel tallied 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, and Ryan Harrow rounded out the balanced effort with a dozen points. Although Noel is just the team's fourth-leading scorer with 10.6 ppg, his play across the board has been the primary reason the Wildcats are showing signs of improvement, as he shoots 59.1 percent from the floor, grabs 9.5 rpg, logs 2.2 spg, and records away a national-leading 4.6 bpg. Fellow freshman Goodwin (14.7 ppg, 3.2 apg), Alex Poythress (12.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Cauley-Stein (7.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.8 bpg) round out a great first-year class. Kyle Wiltjer (11.6 ppg), Harrow (10.3 ppg) and Mays (9.2 ppg) are also regular contributors for UK, which scores 76.2 ppg while yielding just 62.5 ppg.
Kentucky has the talent to compete with any team in the country, and it finally seems to be playing to its full potential. Having already handled Auburn once this season, the Wildcats shouldn't have much of an issue in this home matchup.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 80, Auburn 61
02/09 10:33:57 ET