Tonight at 9 p.m., Kentucky will take on the tenth-ranked Auburn Tigers in Auburn, Alabama. As we continue to count down the time until tipoff, here are ten things you should know about the best team in the SEC.
1. They score a lot
The Tigers lead the SEC and are tied for eighth nationally in scoring with 85.5 points per game. To put that into context, they’re currently on pace to be the SEC’s highest-scoring team since the 1996 Kentucky squad, which averaged 91.4 points per game. Auburn has eclipsed the 90-point mark four times in SEC play, two more than any other team. They’ve shot over 50% from the field in four out of their last five games.
2. Their best player missed the last game
Starting guard Bryce Brown leads the Tigers in scoring with 16.6 points per game, but missed Auburn’s win over Georgia with a shoulder injury. He was able to practice yesterday but it still questionable for tonight’s game (which means he will play). If he does go, Hamidou Diallo will have his hands full.
3. They do not match up well with Kentucky
Auburn’s tallest player (that plays) is 6’8″, which means Kentucky will have a considerable size advantage. The Tigers start four guards and a forward, so, on paper, the matchup is in the Cats’ favor. As Bruce Pearl noted yesterday, two of Auburn’s three losses came against teams with bigger frontcourts.
“They are really long, and we’ve been bothered by teams like Texas A&M and Alabama who do a great job with using their length.”
Kenny Payne has been hammering that message home with the big men this week.
“I think our advantages are going to be our length, our athleticism. They are not a tall team. They are basically, it looks like, three or four guards and a forward. Their tallest guy is 6-7, 6-8 that is playing minutes. We have to take advantage of that. That means offensive rebounding, that means stuff around the baskets we have to be strong. We have to be the aggressor. We have to go after them. We really have to go out and play desperate basketball and confident basketball, which is really important.”
4. They’ve only beaten Kentucky twice in the past 28 years
Kentucky has an overwhelming 92-18 lead in the series, with Auburn’s most recent win coming two years ago at Auburn Arena, Bruce Pearl’s first over Calipari and the Cats with the Tigers. Before that, Auburn had only beaten Kentucky once since 1990, a 66-63 win in 2000 over a 20th ranked UK squad that included Tayshaun Prince, Jamal Magloire, and Keith Bogans.
5. The last time they beat Kentucky, fans stormed the court
Auburn fans storming the court after beating Kentucky two years ago wasn’t surprising, but I forgot how Calipari sent most of the team to the locker room in the final seconds to avoid the chaos. Watch as Jonny David checks in so Tyler Ulis can go to the locker room early:
LOL. I can’t decide whether Calipari was protecting Ulis or protecting Auburn students from him.
6. Calipari has a 9-4 record vs. Bruce Pearl
The Calipari/Pearl rivalry isn’t nearly as intense as it was when Calipari was at Memphis and Pearl at Tennessee, but the two definitely aren’t best friends. Tonight will be their 14th meeting, with Calipari holding a 9-4 edge.
7. They’re having a White Out
8. Jared Harper leads the SEC in assists
Sophomore guard Jared Harper has a SEC-best 149 assists this season and also boasts one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the country (3.17). Harper has 77 assists to only 21 turnovers in SEC play and has seven or more assists in 13 games this season. That’s really good.
9. Their fans have been warned to stay classy
Tony Barbee was Auburn’s coach for four years before being fired and missed Kentucky’s game there two years ago because he was on a “recruiting trip.” Earlier this week, Bruce Pearl begged the Auburn fanbase to stay classy in regards to Barbee, who will be on the sidelines tonight.
“I would think it would only be fitting and fitting with Auburn to be classy. He was our basketball coach for four years. He moved his family here. He was a part of this family. And I would, rather than have it be anything other than welcome him back to where his family spent four years. It should be nothing else.”
Speaking of Auburn fans…
10. This is still the greatest GIF ever
And I will use every excuse to post it.