If Auburn’s plan was to come into Rupp Arena and play a physical game, mission accomplished. That well-executed plan did not, however, result in a win. Kentucky defeated Auburn, 72-62, in a scrappy contest that saw one Tiger ejected and two others foul out.
For Kentucky, the win is its fifth in a row since dropping its only SEC road game at Alabama. The Wildcats were far from perfect today, but a win is a win and the victory secured second place in the SEC after Ole Miss’s 19-point loss to Missouri. That team we once worried wouldn’t make the tournament is now 17-6 and in contention with Florida to win the regular season conference crown. They’ll get their first shot at the Gators Tuesday night.
For Auburn, Tony Barbee should plan on not having a voice tomorrow. He spent a lot of time shouting at his players and causing a ruckus on the Auburn sideline. You might’ve seen him spike the ball out of his point guard’s hands as the SEC Network cut to commercial during a timeout — that sums up Barbee’s afternoon in Rupp Arena.
Let’s run through a few highlights and lowlights before we close the book on the Auburn Tigers for the 2012-13 basketball season…
Auburn was 0-for-15 from beyond the arc in the last meeting down in Alabama, but the Tigers knocked down two three-pointers for its first six points of the game in the rematch. It gave Kentucky fans that “here we go again” feeling we get when teams come in and shoot the lights out in Rupp Arena. The Tigers’ hot shooting continued throughout the afternoon — they finished with over a 50-percent clip from downtown — but it still wasn’t enough to stay in the game. Kentucky, though not playing its best, was just too much for Tony Barbee’s squad.
Barbee coached a good game against his friend and mentor; he just doesn’t have the talent to win against a team like Kentucky and in an environment like Rupp Arena. He obviously wanted a rough game, which he got, and he tried to confuse the young Wildcats team by throwing multiple defenses at them. The Tigers rotated between zone and man-to-man, sometimes even on the same possession, but UK still managed to hang 72 points, three shy of its point total from the two teams’ first outing. The Cats’ offense still struggles with the zone, especially with the twin towers in at the same time, but they’ve gotten better. The best method of attack is to use Wiltjer as a threat in the middle with Poythress working on the baseline. I say that like it’s so easy to do.
The teams combined for 50 fouls in the game but that number could’ve easily been much higher. It was a let-em-play kind of game from another poor SEC officiating crew and Calipari wishes he would’ve heard more whistles. After the game, he said more fouls should’ve been called. “Call the fouls,” he said. “Call them all. Sixty, seventy. Call them on us.” I think Auburn would’ve run out of players had the officials called many more. Dixon-Tatum and your boy Rob Chubb both fouled out for Auburn, while Jordan Grainger watched the game from the locker room for throwing a punch at Archie Goodwin’s back in the first half. Note to self: Don’t throw a punch at Archie Goodwin’s back.
While Auburn was lighting up the nets with its three-pointers, Kentucky’s shooters used more iron than Matt Jones getting ready for the IMG show. UK was just 28-percent from downtown, after shooting around 50-percent over its last two games. Julius Mays finally cooled off; he hit 2-of-8. Kyle Wiltjer also felt human again with four misses on his six attempts.
Calipari spoke very highly of the effort he got from Willie Cauley-Stein and Jarrod Polson. He hopes their teammates saw it and try to emulate that effort next time out. Cal said too many guys are playing for themselves and not for the team. “If you play the game for your teammates and not for yourself, it becomes much easier,” he said. He doesn’t mean they’re selfish when he says they play for themselves, but they’re letting their teammates down by not recovering and hustling after mistakes and missed shots. Every time he brings this up, I think back to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist losing his man against Kansas and then hustling to the rim for the block. Man, I miss Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Cauley-Stein gave more than just effort in what was maybe his best game to date. After playing only four minutes before halftime, Willie played 14 minutes in the second half and made all five of his field goal attempts, or, dunks. He was also involved in my two favorite plays of the game: Alex Poythress’s nasty behind-the-back pass to Willie for the score and the foul, and then the break where Willie ran the point and kicked it to Wiltjer for the three. The best part of the play with Poythress is Willie finishing it off by making the free throw. He said after the game that he used to be a great free throw shooter but he can’t get it going at this level. “I don’t know what the heck happened,” he said. “I won three or four contests in junior high.” (Pic or it didn’t happen.
Calipari said on his radio show that Alex Poythress couldn’t dunk off one foot when he got to Kentucky. Now, I would never call John Vincent Calipari a liar, especially on the day before his birthday, but that can’t be right. Can it? I find that so hard to believe.
Regardless of what he could and couldn’t do when he arrived on campus, Poythress played a pretty good game against Auburn. He made a couple NBA moves to get to the rim and was aggressive defensively. Poythress is getting there, baby step at a time, but he’s getting there. Too bad this isn’t an 82 game season.
Ryan Harrow had more blocks than Nerlens Noel. Read that again. Ryan Harrow had more blocks than Nerlens Noel. I blame myself for jinxing him by predicting a triple-double. He was only nine blocks away though!!! So close.
Though Harrow outshined his teammate in the blocks category, it still wasn’t the game Calipari expects from him. Cal said afterwards that Ryan is capable of being the physical point guard he needs to be, but he’s choosing not to at times. He needs to develop a winning attitude. Cal added that he’s not giving up on Harrow, or anyone else on the team.
Harrow isn’t doing it every game, obviously, but we know he has it in him; he showed us in the last game against Auburn when he had five rebounds and played excellent defense.
Ladies and gentlemen, John Boehner, your Speaker of the United States House of Representatives…
Archie, Archie, Archie. I don’t even know what to say. 1-of-6 from the field, 1-of-4 from the line, and two silly turnovers. I never thought I’d say this, but I don’t mind seeing him sitting on the bench. Julius and Jarrod are playing much better than he is right now. I still love him, though.
And, finally, the best part of the day: The Firecrackers were the halftime show!!!!! If you’ve seen The Firecrackers jump roping act, you know why I’m so excited. And if you haven’t seen The Firecrackers jump roping act, get to YouTube as fast as you can.
That’ll do it for now. Enjoy your Saturday night and Go Irish!