Well this is strange. Comparing similar opponents of Kentucky and Louisiana State leads to some head scratching. Texas A&M and Auburn are the two opponents both UK and LSU have played so far this season, and the results are exactly opposite… The Cats beat Auburn on the road and lost to Texas A&M at home, while the Tigers lost to Auburn on the road and beat Texas A&M at home. Let’s take a look at how these games went down for both teams.
It was Kentucky’s fourth SEC game, and came on the heels of a decisive ten-point victory over rival Tennessee in Rupp Arena. That game, of course, followed the home loss to Texas A&M, only the second in John Calipari’s tenure as head coach at Kentucky. Auburn was the victim of a beating that seemed to get the Cats closer to that “Refuse to Lose” attitude so many fans are (still) looking to see. Kyle Wiltjer pieced together two consecutive 17-point games, and Nerlens Noel continued to exhibit his uncanny defensive instinct. All things considered, Big Blue Nation was thrilled to see this kind of game, no matter the opponent.
For LSU, Auburn was the SEC opener, and came following a 9-2 non-conference record against a painfully weak schedule. LSU was led by its trio of guards on the road at Auburn, including Charles Carmouche’s 15 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds, to go along with Andrew Stringer’s and Anthony Hickey’s 13 points apiece. LSU could not match the inside scoring presence, however, paced by Allen Payne who dropped 15 points (11 points vs. Kentucky), and Shaquille Johnson who added 11 points (0 points vs. Kentucky).
In summary, Kentucky shot 54.5 percent (30-for-55) from the field and 33.3 percent (5-for-15) from the perimeter. The Cats out-rebounded the Tigers 39 to 24 and forced 9 turnovers. In all, it was a 22-point victory for Kentucky and remains Auburn’s worst loss of the season.
LSU shot 37.3 percent (25-for-67) from the floor and also went 33.3 percent (9-for-27) shooting from beyond the arc — though they reached that mark the hard way. LSU out-rebounded Auburn despite the loss, 40 to 35 while forcing 12 turnovers. The 68-63 loss was the first of a four-game losing skid for LSU that was snapped Wednesday against the Texas A&M Elston Turner’s.
The Aggies are a team Kentucky wants to forget. But the loss is one that may haunt the team come Selection Sunday. Texas A&M visited Lexington with nothing to lose, and Mr. Turner left with no regrets. Forty points he dropped on the Wildcats — one of the most damaging games any opponent has ever had at Rupp Arena. The most upsetting thing for the Cats and fans alike is the Aggies have since gone on to lose three straight in the conference, to Florida, Alabama, and Kentucky’s next opponent, LSU. To make matters worse, Elston Turner has averaged just 7.3 points in those three losses, including 2-for-14 from behind the arc.
On the other side, finally for LSU, a victory in the SEC. Coincidentally, it came with Turner’s second-worst scoring day on the season (the worst is 4 points vs. Florida). Turner shot 1-for-7 from the floor versus the Tigers, which consisted of 1-for-6 from three-point land. He totaled 5 points against the Tigers in the 58-54 LSU win. Fabyon Harris did most of the damage for the Aggies, dropping 19 points (14 points vs. Kentucky). Big man Johnny O’Bryant III led the way for LSU with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Shavon Coleman added 17 points off the bench.
Kentucky made it a game, but had no answer for the Aggies’ one-man army. The Cats shot 42.9 percent (24-for-56) in the loss, versus Texas A&M’s 52.5 percent (31-for-59). The Aggies also owned the glass, out-rebounding Kentucky 32 to 27. Kentucky forced just 10 turnovers.
The Tigers were clearly keying on Elston Turner, making anyone but him beat them. The strategy worked; LSU shot 38.1 percent (24-for-63) versus Texas A&M’s 45.5 percent (20-for-44). On the boards, LSU was also out-rebounded by the Aggies 34 to 29, but Texas A&M turned the ball over 24 times.
All is not well in Big Blue Nation, but Kentucky has remained competitive in many of its losses. And with a solid strength of schedule to back it up (No. 35 versus LSU’s No. 248), the Cats should have no trouble rolling in Rupp Arena Saturday. Working on four-straight victories over the Tigers, Kentucky hopes to string together a little run in hopes of falling on the right side of that tournament bubble.