Tigers Put the Brakes on Kentucky!
Danjel Purifoy on the Defensive End
(John Reed, USA TODAY Sports)
War Eagle, everybody! The Auburn Tigers’ mens basketball team got their first win over a top-25-ranked opponent yesterday, defeating the 13th-ranked Wildcats, 75–66. The win moved Auburn to 19–2 on the season, and the Tigers picked up a big signature win. Barring a total collapse in February, I think Auburn is an NCAA Tournament team once again.
All week long we read about how the Kentucky guards were the best in the league and would give Auburn a lot of trouble. Immanuel Quickley did lead the Wildcats with 23 points but fouled out with a minute left in the game. Point guard Ashton Hagans spent much of the game in foul trouble, picking up his 5th foul with 3:36 left in the game. Hagans finished with just 5 points, 3 assists, and 6 turnovers. Auburn was also able to defend the towering Nick Richards in the paint, with Austin Wiley and Anfernee McLemore trading off defensive responsibilities. Richards managed just 7 points and 7 rebounds.
The story of the ball game was Auburn driving to the lane and drawing fouls. The Tigers were relentless attacking the Kentucky goal, and the Wildcats got in foul trouble early. Auburn finished shooting 44 free throws and making 33. Free throws kept Auburn in the game till the shots from the floor started falling late. When the Wildcats did successfully defend the lane, usually by a double-team, Isaac Okoro, J’Von McCormick or Samir Doughty were able to dish the ball back outside for 3-point attempts.
Auburn only hit on 18 of 51 shots from the floor, but even taking 51 shots along with 44 free throws is pretty astounding against Kentucky. The answer to that riddle was offensive rebounding. Auburn outrebounded the Cats 42 to 28. Austin Wiley led the way with 10 rebounds.
Tuesday evening, Auburn will travel to Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks. Like Kentucky, the Razorbacks also rely on stout guard play. Arkansas is 16–5 on the season with losses at Western Kentucky, at LSU, Kentucky, at Mississippi State and against South Carolina. Arkansas is coming off a big win against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, a place where Auburn was blown out a couple of weeks ago.
Auburn follows the Hog trip with LSU and Alabama at home.