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Takeaways From Kentucky’s Huge Win At Auburn

(Photo: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports)

Kentucky escaped a rowdy Auburn Arena with arguably its biggest win of the season on Saturday. The entire starting five played well and the Cats controlled the scoreboard for most of the entire game, holding off multiple Auburn comeback attempts, to earn the 82-80 victory over sweaty Bruce Pearl and his Tigers. If there were any fans out there who still needed a reason to get excited about Kentucky this year, the win should have us all on the same page.

Let’s talk about it.


Keldon Johnson and Reid Travis bounced back with big games.

Considered to be two of Kentucky’s best and most consistent players throughout the better part of the season, Johnson and Travis were struggling entering Saturday’s game. Johnson had just hung a goose egg in the scoring column at Georgia, and Travis appeared to be having trouble against the length and athleticism of the SEC. They were each in a small slump by their standards, but they each bounced back at Auburn with two very good performances.

Johnson shared high-scorer honors with Tyler Herro at 20 points apiece, while Travis got back into double figures for the first time in four games with 17 points in addition to seven rebounds. John Calipari said, “I thought Reid Travis was really good today,” in his postgame comments.

Johnson also looked like he found his swagger after it appeared he was mentally checked out in Athens. He played with the confidence and attitude that has always been a big part of his game.

It’s great to have both back.

The Cats dodged a slow start.

My biggest concern before the game was how Kentucky would handle the first three or four minutes. Auburn Arena is a very dangerous environment and I worried a couple of early three-pointers by Jared Harper or Bryce Brown could put UK in a hole it couldn’t climb out of. But Kentucky avoided early trouble and even held the lead after the three or four minute stretch I worried about, and then after a little back and forth, went on a 19-2 run to extend its lead, a lead it would never lose. In fact, Kentucky led for over 32 minutes. It was a great end-to-end performance, even when Auburn did all it could to come back. Speaking of that….

Kentucky hit so many “shut the %*&!” up” shots.

So many times, Auburn hit a huge shot to cut the deficit, only for Kentucky to hit one right back on the other end. The crowd would erupt and the Auburn guards would get that confident smile as if they knew they were back in the game, but Kentucky would drain what I like to call the “shut the %*&! up” shot on the other end to silence the crowd and keep a comfortable lead. Two that come to mind are the Keldon Johnson three-pointer to counter Bryce Brown’s three-pointer, and Tyler Herro hitting a three-pointer to erase another Brown three. Both shots put the fans’ butts back in their seats and it happened time and time again. Those responses showed the Kentucky players weren’t bothered by the pressure and that’s a quality of a great team.

Auburn really missed Austin Wiley.

Not to take away from Kentucky’s big win, but it is worth noting Auburn was without its star big man, Austin Wiley. Wiley is a projected first-round NBA draft pick next summer and the Tigers’ leading rebounder and shot blocker. It’s hard to say if he would’ve changed the outcome of the game, but it certainly didn’t hurt the Cats’ chances having him on the bench, especially given the foul trouble Auburn faced inside. Wiley could’ve been a difference-maker, but that’s a big Auburn problem, not a me or you or Kentucky problem. Sorry about your luck, Bruce.

I’ll say it: Jared Harper and Bryce Brown are fun to watch.

Now that they’ve taken their L, I have no problem admitting Auburn’s two veteran guards are a lot of fun. That three Harper hit with 30 seconds left in the game, I feel like I’ve seen him hit it 20 times over the course of his career. He’s so clutch and I’m so glad he didn’t get the last look because I would’ve bet my entire bank account that he’d make it. I think Immanuel Quickley’s missed free throw was a blessing.

Then there’s Brown going 6-for-7 from outside, many of them contested and off-balance, to finish with 28 points. They’re a dangerous duo and Kentucky still managed to fly home with a win. Whew.

I’m going to break KSR company police and make a comment about the officiating.

That flagrant foul call was horrendous. I’m sorry the guy lost a little bit of blood on the fall but there is no way anyone can say PJ Washington wasn’t making a play on the ball. That’s a terrible call. Horrible call. Inexplicable call.

Luckily, Auburn wasn’t able to capitalize on the extra possession.

Ashton Hagans with a quiet but good game running the show.

Hagans had his hands full with the assignment of trying to contain Jared Harper and he didn’t match his 16 points per game output of the last five games, but he still made a huge impact with six assists and a career-high seven rebounds.

His best play of the game, though, was telling Keldon Johnson to, “Wake the f— up.”

It’s his team to run and he knows it. Cal has his next great point guard.

Kentucky is looking like a dangerous team as March gets closer.

The version of Kentucky we saw at Auburn on Saturday is as good as any team in the country. The entire starting five played well and the guys off the bench made big contributions, while playing in one of the toughest environments they’ll face all season against a hot-shooting team that wouldn’t go away. I’m not sure I’d trade rosters with any other team in the country right now because the Cats are gradually putting it all together and looking better and better as the season rolls on. Come March, they’re going to be very dangerous if they continue to come together and push forward.

This was a big statement win for their resume and for their confidence.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

68 Comments for Takeaways From Kentucky’s Huge Win At Auburn

  1. BlueWildcat_99
    8:19 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    Tyler Herro was a stud today. Big shot after big shot. Loved that Reid and Keldon both had solid games to get out of their “slumps.” My main concern is still our ability to consistently make 3’s. We were 40% from 3 today which is great! But we only took 15 shots from behind the arc (compared to 30 from Auburn). I love watching this team improve and learn to fight. Let’s keep it up! GO CATS!

    • trumpetguy
      11:36 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Nice road win against a solid NCAA tournament team who may very well make a deep run

  2. Hoptown Tiger
    8:19 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    Where is the KSR story criticizing Covington Catholic at the Pro Life March? KSR please respond.

    • cats646
      8:28 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      People on the left riot and cause trouble all of the time but as soon as someone on the right does it its just a “terrible and dangerous thing”. Hypocrisy

    • Jiminy Crickets
      8:41 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Agreed. While that kid probably needs that elite smirk knocked off his face, along with a history lesson, he literally just stood there, never knocked the guys instrument out of his hands, or caused the man to stop singing. If he wasn’t wearing a MAGA hat, it wouldn’t have even made news.

    • Big johnson
      9:03 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      The difference was it was a bunch of young punks abusing a veteran.

    • Jiminy Crickets
      8:28 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      You talking about the post about 3-4 hours ago?

    • BigBlue4Three
      8:29 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Need to head outside son, lots of your kind falling from the heavens tonight across the state.

    • Jiminy Crickets
      8:30 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Never mind, more like 6 hours ago

    • shepdog3720
      8:32 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Where you been? That was posted at 1:15pm.

    • jbrockman50
      8:34 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      It’s in the stories from earlier today.

    • Hoptown Tiger
      8:47 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Seems pretty bold to post knee jerk criticism of Catholic high school students at a pro life without the whole story…

    • Big johnson
      7:53 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Your right hoptown, I’m sure that old man who was there to honor other Indian veterans walked up to all those trumpers and started it.

    • BigBlue4Three
      8:56 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      You forget, this is KSR where facts are entirely option and often ignored. Beside it fits Nose Whistle’s agenda.

    • michaelb
      9:02 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      That guy had the most punchable face I’ve ever seen in my life

    • BigolBlue
      9:10 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Im waiting for bigboard aka matts response on this political thread

    • catsarerunnin
      9:26 am January 20, 2019 Permalink


    • Steady
      9:11 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      The native American man APPROACHED the kids!

      “Covington Catholic student bothering elder man” yet here is evidence of the man approaching them during their school cheer not disturbing anyone. Doesn’t make sense

      — maria judy (@mariajudy_) January 19, 2019

      More video shows the elderly man beating the drum in the child’s face.

      On Saturday the fake news media blamed the children for harassing the Native American man.

      (Obviously, from the video the reverse is true — but we are talking about the fake news media.)

    • Melvit
      1:44 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      So new video evidence shows the native american people approaching the kids and they were the ones getting in the kids’ faces, not the other way around. Are we going to get an article on that?

    • bankerbh
      7:28 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Hoptown…you should learn to stay in your lane and only comment things you have knowledge about. Unless you were at the rally with these boys or had a son there, I’m sure you don’t know everything that was going on. I don’t have 100% of the details but I did watch videos that my son took at the March. There are two sides to every story. What you don’t see is the boys being targeted by a different group and being called “school shooters.” The boys handled themselves quite well and asked why the opinion. They were told because of their short hair…for which many were wearing hats…and he could see it in their eyes. The boys – in total approx 225 – were at their assigned meeting place when the native americans approached them. The mob mentality from people like you has kicked in and the keyboard heroes have called for the principal to be fired and the boy to be publicly caned. How pathetic but these social media outlets are destroying individuals and our culture.

    • 4everUKblue
      7:38 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Anyone who tries to make excuses for the actions of these kids should be ashamed and would likely have acted the same.

    • Hoptown Tiger
      10:33 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      bankerbh my original contention KSR chose to criticize high school students without full knowledge of the situation was either poorly written or you have misunderstood exactly what I wrote.

    • BluKudzu
      10:56 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Anyone besides me find it odd “any” school would send children to a women’s march, for their rights for their bodies, to tell them what they should do?
      They were there to be sexist, but they got confused and ended up being racist.
      Not to mention disrespectful to their elders, which happened to be a Viet Nam Vet?
      The school should be shuttered and the entire staff fired for using children to politicize stances for religious beliefs, and further, to be racist as well.
      The school already has a history of their male students raping and sodomizing girls, so, tell me more about their innocent agenda.
      I am waiting.

    • stunninsteve
      1:28 pm January 22, 2019 Permalink

      Cats looked really good, so glad they weathered the storm and got the well-earned W.

    • Luether
      8:27 pm January 20, 2019 Permalink

      DemocRats – the party of hate…

  3. michaelb
    8:32 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    My fav STFU shot was Herro’s finger roll lay in with the and 1 , when he landed out of bounds . That shot crushed auburn considering the time , score their momentum & other circumstances. That dude is an underrated slasher . He hits like 85% of his layups . I always feel good when he drives . #Rawr

    • J. Did
      8:39 am January 20, 2019 Permalink


      Between Herro and Hagans, they can ALWAYS drive the lane for two and possibly free throws.

      That is an enormously valuable weapon – especially in close games.

    • michaelb
      10:56 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Hell yea it is !

  4. shepdog3720
    8:34 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    Great win on the road! If only a bench would start to show itself, you never know one game to the next if anyone other than Quickley can help you.

  5. CKTermy23
    8:38 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    We have to take care of business next weekend against KU and have to get at least one against Tennessee sweeping them would be better but highly unlikely. A win against Kansas and Tennessee would likely look us into no less then a three seed we would have win out the rest of the way and win the SEC and SEC Turnament and have a little more help outside the SEC to have chance for a one or two Seed but probably won’t be enough with the loss against Alabama and Seton Hall. The Duke Loss hurts a little bit due to the way we lost and the head to head. We just getting started y’all. Go Cats!!!

  6. SoCalCat
    8:41 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    I thought the referees were in over their heads today. They looked intimidated by the crowd. No specific complaints other than they looked nervous and kept using the replay monitor as a crutch.

    • makeitstop
      9:47 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      They used the monitor several times to see who the foul was on, which is allowed, but they just CALLED the foul and at least twice it was just one player it could be on. Seriously, u forgot? U just blew ur whistle, what number did u see? It’s whistle, call, team and number. Not “shit, who was that again?” That and the flop and the phantom flagrant were low lights for them, not terribly biased just as u say, over their head.

  7. antiquefurnitureandmidgets
    8:43 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    My memory is spotty but I’m pretty sure we did give up the lead late in the game for at least one trip.

    • kenny
      9:11 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      You are right. Herro hit 2 free throws to put UK back in front.

  8. dhard
    8:50 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    Saw kids with a will to win today. Well done youngsters.

  9. friendsofcoal
    8:55 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    The bottom line is that we CAN NOT give up 53 points in a half. Keep doing that and we’re gonna lose a few more games.

    • damage_control
      9:35 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Bottom line is UK beat a top 15 team on the road- anything else is just whining and moaning due to your insatiable need to be miserable

  10. mashburnfan1
    8:57 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    For sure not having Wiley made a huge difference. Also officiating seemed to make a difference, not often does a road team get 13 more attempts. Still a good road win but people need to remember Auburn is just a good team with Wiley. We have it easy in the SEC, Tenn is very good, Aub and LSU at full strength are good and the rest are ok to bad. I think by end of year we will be in the good category. Not good enough for a title, only Tenn at this point in the SEC has a F4 chance, but 2nd weekend of tourney good.

    • StillBP
      9:16 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Officiating tried to make a difference for them. 13 more free throws but only 5 more fouls on them. They just fouled a lot early in the 2nd half so we got in the double bonus early. Because we were attacking the basket and they were jacking up 3s. The refs certainly tried to help them, like w that bogus flagrant on Keldon.

    • KYjellyRoll
      9:38 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Flagrant was on PJ

    • StillBP
      9:23 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      More than 50% of their shots were 3 pointers. Not even a third of ours were. Easy to see why they had more fouls.

    • henderblue
      9:25 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Mashburnfan I’m sure you were happy with the Duke win though, right?

    • henderblue
      9:28 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      You’re exactly right BP. Mashburnfan trying to put a damper on a big road conference win. He wants so bad to believe ‘we’re not good enough for a title’..he’s no Kentucky fan at all.

    • yupclouduk
      9:30 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Very little of that post makes sense- aside from stating the obvious that Auburn, especially with the addition of their star big man, is a very good team. They still were a very good team without. However, it is not unusual that the road team (or any team) will get many more free throw attempts if the team is making an effort to go inside consistently and driving to the basket, especially against an undersized opponent and the other team shoots 30 3’s. And take away the fouls committed on 3 point shots, the ridiculous flagrant and that discrepancy would have been greater and also fair. That’s actually how it works. Furthermore, to say “we have it easy in the SEC” is just flat wrong. It’s not even that I disagree with your opinion, it’s just that you are flat out wrong. We will most likely end up with far and away the toughest schedule in the country. Not saying at this point you have to believe we are the best team in the country, not even have believe we arein the top 5 or 7, however, If you are capable of watching this game and believe this looks like a sure-fire 2nd round team and does not have a final 4 chance I don’t really think you understand basketball. Tenn could very, very easily have dropped their game to Alabama today. And that’s not to criticize Tenn, but on the road in the SEC is not easy. So, with all due respect, I feel that your post is just negative to be negative.

    • 4everUKblue
      10:33 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

      Mashburn as it turns out is not only a dUKe apologist but an Auburn apologist. Probably Slater’s daddy.

    • CATandMONKEY
      11:36 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink


    • dcforuk
      12:11 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      The cement at the end of the runway of an airstrip may not look the same as the cement 60% down the runway. The only way to tell is to get to the end of the runway. I also know that as an airplane continues down the runway it continues to pick up speed and gain momentum that results in lift off! The easy prediction is that this team is not good enough to get to the FF and see what happens from there. There is zero risk in that kind of prediction. Being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see does not guarantee a specific kind of success but unbelief does guarantee a specific kind of failure. Hope inspires endurance and there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a lot of hope especially when it is also based on some pretty decent results!

    • dcforuk
      12:19 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Risk and hope a little my friend. It will do your soul a bit of good. I know that your namesake has done an awesome job being a thoughtful, smart, articulate and successful business man. But, he did have to risk a little too. Come on over! We will welcome you with open arms! Does your UK Polar Express Christmas Bell not ring in your ear when you shake it? Go put on some golden yellow pajamas and a dark navy blue robe and become a Hero Boy and B E L I E V E !!!

    • BigBlue4Three
      12:56 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      I’ll have some of what he’s smoking…

    • 4everUKblue
      7:42 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Says the man who shook Rupp’s hand…many times. Still in awe.

    • RexRox
      8:51 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      7 of the 14 SEC teams are in Ken Pomeroy’s top 30. This is more than any other conference. SEC not weak at all.

  11. Heavy C
    9:31 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    Why do you dumb F$%ks that continue to criticize EVERYTHING about this blog continue to come here? I mean damn. You’re team must really suck a$$.

    • JASUN74
      6:45 pm January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Because their lives suck!! Seriously!!! They’ve got nothing better to do, and nothing in their lives are important. The only thing that makes them feel special is to come here or online somewhere and be different. Daddy issues, or maybe Mommy doesn’t love them. Haha. I know it’s normally not funny, but in this case it’s hilarious!!!

      I’m sure they’re home right now with the shades drawn and doors locked, haven’t took a bath/shower in a month and starting to grow something weird on their body’s that they can’t seem to find online. Lmao. It would definitely be a sad life to not have friend or someone to talk to, this is the only thing they have so they’ll continue being negative, and try to make everyone else feel negative.

      I really hope you couple of negative idiots that post here get some help! It’s important to make some real friends or find something to do with your time. Maybe get a hobby or start actually leaving the house sometimes. I’ll pray for all of them. It is a shame Heavy C. Lol. Like big Charles said to Cal, Fucck em!!! Hahahahaha

  12. Aar
    9:40 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    Love the road win. I saw a team come of age today in many ways. The one letdown was getting up by 16 in the second half, letting up and allowing an 11-0 run. I could see the Cats let up about three possessions before Auburn started hitting those “impossible” threes. This week Cal said that good teams would not let us back in but tonight we had them beat and let them back in. Done harping. Great conference road win against a legitimately top 15 team in front of a rowdy crowd. Probably best win of the season so far.

    I think that many members of this team have learned what the team needs from them each night and in game situations. Tonight, Hagans needed to be a supreme on ball defender and he gave up some of his offensive role in order to have the energy on defense. Likewise, I loved how Herro, Washington and Travis asserted themselves in the right way when needed. Setting great picks, committing hard fouls, getting assists when needed and going to the rack at the right times. It’s a rare type of chemistry that takes teams to good places.

    Finally, the over-officiating was mighty annoying but it cut both ways equally (except for one call). Yes, Washington was going for the ball and it was a bit aggressive. The blood and irrational player might have escalated if the flagrant were not called. Double fouls are a cop out and never right.

    • michaelb
      11:04 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      They didn’t let up , they just weathered the referee assist barrage .

    • JASUN74
      6:56 pm January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Aar, I agree with most all of this. I do think the refs let them foul the shit out of us all night and especially when we were trying to post up. I can remember several times where PJ was trying to post and the Auburn kid was pushing and fouling him. It’s all good because we won but they didn’t call it the same against us. Two different times they called fouls on us for the same things and it wasn’t close to being as bad. Lol. Doesn’t really matter now I guess but I’d love to see the refs have to be accountable for their actions like in the NBA now. The NCAA Has plenty of money to fix this problem but if they continue to be private contractors, it’s not ever going to be fair for some coaches and certain teams. I know that piece of shiiit Roofing Ref has cost of some big time games and probably two championships. lol again it’s not doing me any good to talk about it but I’m still pissed about it. Lol. Anyway thanks buddy.

  13. clarks
    10:50 pm January 19, 2019 Permalink

    The d on most of those late 3s wasn’t bad they were just on fire. Great win

  14. ky1988
    12:55 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

    This year’s team is better than last year’s team.

  15. zoupman
    1:48 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

    I missed the game, but glad the Cats won. Way to go Coach Csl snd team.

  16. DukeFan1
    6:11 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

    Good win guys and girls. Congrats! Here’s to Duke keeping the no.1 spot 🙂

    • henderblue
      7:44 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Is that you Mashburnfan?

    • 4everUKblue
      7:46 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Of course dUKe shot 31 free throws to Virginia’s 17 and still only won by 2. No excuses for a team with that level of talent on their home court.

    • Skooms
      12:28 pm January 20, 2019 Permalink

      Nope, that spot belongs to TN now.

  17. catsarerunnin
    7:02 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

    Unfortunately for you they won’t. Sorry.

  18. makeitstop
    9:59 am January 20, 2019 Permalink

    I was impressed by Auburn, and more than a little nervous as we gave back 18 points. But our first 6 guys really answered every bell, Drew is right about that. Couple of dumb fouls against 3 pt shooters, but the one on PJ was worse. He flopped, but why were u there? PJ lowering his shoulder and getting a charge call at a critical time also leaves u shaking ur head, but over all they stayed locked in. But… poor EJ remains a lost ball in high weeds, and we are going to need a damn good big man off the bench, preferably one why can shoot AND block shots, if we are going to a) split against UT and b) make a run in the tourney. We have another 6-8 games to find one before this becomes a short bench team hoping no one turns an ankle or gets in foul trouble and w the good big men we face that’s not a happy place to be. Just sayin’ – great win, needed it to make up for Alabama, it was a must, but we still hv a way to go.

  19. JASUN74
    7:27 pm January 20, 2019 Permalink

    Drew, it’s so funny you called it ‘shut the f&@$ shots’!! Lmao. My first head coach in high school called it that and I hit a couple of them myself. Such a great feeling knowing they have some momentum and you hit a big shot to stop their run. Besides a last second game winner, it’s the most important shot of a game. It can turn the whole game around and break the hearts of the other teams.

    This was a Great win, and we’re finally starting to show up with some big time heart. I’ve saw a big change in our guys lately and their playing for each other. Playing with toughness and having fun. It happens every year around this time, or sooner some years, and it blows my mind that people still doubt Coach John Calipari!! He’s one of the greatest that’s ever walked the sideline, but theirs still a few idiots that think he’s not a good coach.

    Cal has got this group right where they should be and we’re seeing improvements every single game. Not just from one player, but the whole team is improving as a unit. The Duke game really woke Coach Cal up, and he has absolutely went to work this year as hard as ever! Sometimes when a man gets on top, he can become a little complacent, it’s happened to many great men and will happen again I’m sure, but Cal has learned from it and he’s got that fire back that he had when he first came here. It could be the best thing to happen to Coach Cal because He’s got the Eye of the Tiger/Wildcat back, the man is as fired up as I’ve seen him in along time, and that’s bad news for the rest of the country. Haha. I’m loving every single minute of it. Thanks brother!

  20. bankerbh
    10:34 pm January 20, 2019 Permalink

    Blukudzu. You are an uninformed idiot like the rest of the posters on this topic. The women’s march you reference was on Saturday. Get your facts right before you pen something and show us to be the fool you really are. The boys attend a catholic high school and were there Friday for the annual march for life. 225 boys from the school participated this year. Also, look at the videos that surfaced Saturday showing the boys were the ones taunted and confronted. How do I know this? I watched video taped by my son who attended the event. Waiting to hear from you on which of your family members went and marched for the rights of the unborn? Didn’t think so.