Tennessee and Texas A&M exploited Kentucky’s weaknesses inside, but tomorrow night, the Cats will face an Auburn team whose tallest starter is 6’7″. Kenny Payne told reporters he’s hoping that size advantage will inspire a big performance from his big men vs. the Tigers.
“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.”
Someone who can really use his size to his advantage is Nick Richards. For every good play the 6’11” big man gives Kentucky, there’s been a baffling one to offset it, which is proof to Payne that it’s all in his head.
“I just think Nick needs to play confidently. Another way of saying it is get out of your own self’s way. You’re trained. You are walking in the games, playing a good game. So what happens when you step on the court?…What changed in your mind mentally that made you have self-doubt. That’s what the challenge is with him. He’s a good player and he needs to go out there and believe in him the way we do.”
After watching film of Kentucky’s “terrible” performance vs. Texas A&M, Hamidou Diallo stressed that the Cats can’t just rely on their size tomorrow night; to win, they’re going to have to match Auburn’s effort, which hasn’t always been easy for this group.
“They’re not very tall, but they play really hard. So it makes up for itself. They play really hard and we’re just going to have to go out there and compete. With length or without length, we’re going to have to play. They’re going to be there trying to battle us, playing really aggressive and they’re a good team. They’re capable of beating us and I think they’re the best team in the conference right now. So it’s a really big game for us right now and we’re just going to have to come out and try to fight for the whole game. All 40 minutes.”
“We have to be strong,” Payne added. “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.”