You could hear the frustration in Tony Barbee’s voice in his post game press conference, “I got out coached. They (Tigers) got out played.” It was evident he was disgusted with the performance of his basketball team against Kentucky.
Saturday night the Tigers appeared to be riding a wave of confidence going into the game. All the right things seem to be in place for a signature win. The team’s senior leadership has been fortified with a number of top shelf recruits and was playing in front of a packed home crowd in the newest venue in the SEC.
In addition, the perception was that unranked Kentucky (11-5, 2-1 SEC) was experiencing a down year while the Tigers (8-8, 2-1) were on the rise after taking No.12 Illinois to the wire, defeating South Carolina on the road, and playing in a double overtime game at Arkansas.
But perception does not always equal reality. For the 28th time in the last 29 meetings, the Tigers lost to the Wildcats. Auburn looked good enough in the first few minutes and were only trailing UK 32-27 at the half.
However, the Tigers reverted back to their old ways, wilting in the second half and losing 75-53, despite the support of an intense and rowdy home crowd.
To lose in double overtime on the road is one thing, to lose by 22 at home is quite another. One can make a point that the long road trip to Fayetteville took too much out of the team.
Whether true or not, it was embarrassing. It was the worst loss at home in the Barbee tenure. Yet what was more disappointing than the loss was the Tigers didn’t seem to fight like they have in recent weeks. Barbee said his guys played scared but added, “We can’t let this one loss affect what we have built in conference play.”
Question is, how will Auburn respond. Good teams find ways to absorb these kind of blows and move forward. However, at this juncture, this team has proven they are not at that level … yet.
Barbee’s third season began with a lot of optimism and while the Tigers didn’t play well in any phase of the game Saturday- they can still finish with a good season.
They get their chance at redemption tonight when they take on the Vanderbilt Commodores at 7 pm in a road game in Nashville. Fans can can catch the game on ESPN3.
Although Vandy has had its struggles, tonight wont be easy. The Commodores can play ball as they nearly beat Kentucky at home in a game that wasn’t decided till the final buzzer.
Saturday night is history, the Tigers can bounce back. But to do it, they’ll have to return to the scrappy fighting defense and aggressive offense they played before the UK game.
War Eagle – Beat the Dores!
Vanderbilt made all of its treys while pulling out to a 16-point lead with 11 minutes to play and went on to beat the Tigers 73-61. Coach Barbee said, “Right now we are not playing really tough and we are not playing with a defensive identity and it is hurting us on both ends of the floor,” Auburn returns home to play Ole Miss Saturday at 7 pm CST.
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