By Tony Acree When Auburn hired coach Bruce Pearl three years ago, they hoped he would build a team capable of rivaling the elites in the Southeastern Conference and dethroning the Kentucky Wildcats as the top cats in the league. Last year a bad Auburn team managed to beat the Wildcats at home. And this year, for 42 minutes they gave the more talented Wildcat team all they could handle.
With 8 minutes to go in the game, the Tigers trailed by only 6 points. That’s when the 6th ranked Wildcats turned up the defensive pressure, holding the Tigers to two field goals the rest of the game and going on a 14-4 sprint. The final score was 92-72, with Kentucky holding Auburn scoreless for the final 4:28 of the second half.
Kentucky put five players in double figures with Malik Monk leading the way with 24, Bam Adebayo with 15, De’Aaron Fox 13, Mychal Mulder with 12 and Isiah Briscoe with 10. The player with the most to cheer about, however, might be Wenyen Gabriel who rebounded like Dennis Rodman, pulling down 16 boards, 11 of them on the defensive end, and hit 2 of 3 three pointers, tallying 6 points on the night.
The glaring issue for Kentucky was foul shooting. For a second game in a row, the Cats saw the referees use their whistles with abandon, calling 51 fouls. The Cats went a dismal 17-32 for a paltry 53% pace, well below their season average. Thankfully, they shot 75% from beyond the arc, going 8-12.
While overall happy with his team’s effort, Kentucky coach Calipari continued to harp on his young players needing to play with more discipline. Calipari said, “If you want to foul and be undisciplined with the kind of fouls you’re making where you’re pushing up and body checking guys, you can’t be in the game.”
The Tigers were lead in scoring by TJ Dunans with 23 and Mustpha Heron, a former UK recruiting target with 11. No other Auburn player broke double-figures.
Next up for Kentucky is Mississippi State on Tuesday night.