Asauhn Dixon-Tatum and Josh Wallace fight for the ball in first half action against Kentucky.
For most of this basketball season, Auburn Coach Tony Barbee has been preaching to his team to show some fighting spirit. His Tigers gave the coach what he has been demanding today against Kentucky, the hottest team in the SEC.
Despite playing against the Defending National Champions in famed Rupp Arena, the Tigers fought and scraped all game long. They refused to be intimidated and kept it close till late in the contest when (this writer believes) the Refs effectively took them out of the game.
The Wildcats were frustrated by the aggressive, don’t back down attitude of the Tigers and started trying to play a game of intimidation. When Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin threw a forearm against Auburn’s Jordon Granger, he responded with a punch that got him ejected from the game. And while there’s no excuse for throwing punches, the scuffle showed the Cats, the Tigers were not going to be bullied.
The refs moved quickly to get a physical game under control, mainly by calling 29 fouls on the Tigers. Several players got into foul trouble and both of Auburn’s big men (Chubb and Dixon-Tatum) fouled out. Barbee said after the game he was proud of his team, “They executed the game plan that we put in as coaches to a tee. We had our chances. We missed way too many open shots, way too many shots at the basket, committed way too many silly fouls to put them in the one-and-one situations.”
The two teams were almost identical from the field, Auburn was 22-of-51 (.431) and Kentucky 20-of-46 (.435). The Tigers went 7-of-13 from 3-point range while the Wildcats were 6-of 21 (.286). Kentucky (17-6, 8-2 SEC) had the edge at the foul line 26-of-38 to 11-of-17. The Tigers were out rebounded by Kentucky 35-29.
Chris Denson led the Tigers in scoring with 15 points, Noel Johnson had 12 on four 3-pointers and Shaq Johnson put up 10 points.
Barbee’s bunch may have lost the game but the good thing is they may have finally found their mojo. If the Tigers (9-14, 3-7 SEC) can play with the same don’t back down attitude the rest of the way … this season will not be a total failure. It will definitely be something to build on for the future.
I guess the refs had to take control of the situation but calling 60 percent of the 50 fouls on Auburn (and the majority of those in the last 10 minutes) definitely helped the Wildcats pull away.
With the Tigers inside game taken away, Auburn had no chance against Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer or big man Willie Cauley-Stein and the Cats won by 10 (72-62). But they knew they had been in a real fight. As Barbee said in his post game remarks, “we weren’t gonna get bullied.”
Auburn returns to the Arena Wednesday to open a three game home stand against Arkansas at 8 pm CST on CSS.
Tags: Archie Goodwin, Arkansas, Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, AubTigerman, Auburn basketball, Auburn blogs, auburn Tigers, Chris Denson, Jordon Granger, Josh Wallace, Kentucky Wildcats, Kyle Wiltjer, Noel Johnson, Rob Chubb, Rupp Arena, Shaq Johnson, Tony Barbee, Track 'em Tigers, Willie Cauley-Stein