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About Last Night: Kentucky 82, Auburn 80

Julie Bennett

Last night was an exhilarating experience. There were tons of people discussing which atmosphere would be the best in college basketball this weekend, and some were called ignorant for saying that Auburn Arena would be wilder than Cameron Indoor Stadium. Despite the 82-80 loss to Kentucky, I think there are plenty of things to be proud of after the game. One thing that stands out is the unglued nature of our fans, who made that venue second to none yesterday. It was fantastic, even in defeat.

As for the game itself... man, it was disappointing. There were so many little things that could’ve given Auburn the victory, and none of them happened. I think that once the news broke ahead of tip-off that Austin Wiley was out for this game and likely a few more as well, that we were in trouble. If there was one team against whom Auburn needed a little help in the middle, it was the Wildcats. Austin Wiley’s presence likely negates the huge advantage that Kentucky had with Reid Travis, and also prevents the Cats from taking a few of those open threes once we sucked into the middle defensively.

But hey, we didn’t have him, and nearly pulled it off anyway. Anfernee McLemore faced foul trouble early on, and didn’t have the game we saw him have the last couple of outings, but we saw the usual fiery effort from Horace Spencer (blood and all), and even Danjel Purifoy chipped in for his best minutes of the season. Horace’s moment of sheer will came in the waning moments, and he was fouled hard on a dunk attempt. He got up, bleeding profusely, pointed to his head, left to get stitched up, came back in, scored, and gave the Tigers life. Without Wiley, Horace needs to give that kind of fire on an even bigger basis.

Elsewhere, I was sure we were going to run Kentucky out of the building when we hit that open backdoor cut to Jared Harper for the first bucket of the game. They adjusted, and that 19-2 run that spanned the moments around halftime was huge. Auburn just couldn’t will itself back to a manageable distance. Nothing was working until Bryce Brown stepped in.

Bryce finished with 25 points in the second half on this stat line: 7-7 FG, 5-5 3pt FG, 6-6 FT

That’s unnatural. He was asleep in the second half. Unconscious. Immortal. It was nuts, and he almost singlehandedly willed the Tigers back within striking distance. In the end, Jared Harper hit the go-ahead three, but Auburn couldn’t hold on because of the innumerable McDonald’s All-Americans on the other side. Harper’s final shot with just a few seconds left that would’ve likely won the game spun off... somehow.

There’s not much that we can say other than Auburn got beat yesterday. There are all sorts of what-if scenarios, but none of them can bring back a victory. What we can look toward is the fact that Auburn absolutely never gave up despite being down, took the lead, and sadly let it slip away. This team is learning and growing, and may not win the SEC Championship this year, but there’s not going to be a team in the land that wants to face the Tigers come March.

Also, there was a fair amount of hilarity last night on the broadcast when Charles Barkley slid in between Dick Vitale and Bob Wischusen.

Chuck was great last night, and always a fantastic ambassador for Auburn. War Eagle to that, and War Eagle to future basketball success. War Eagle always.