Close your eyes.
Raise your hand if you’ve won two straight games against Kentucky.
Raise your hand if you just successfully hosted College Gameday and held serve on your home court for the season’s biggest win.
Raise your hand if your former floor captain got called up to the big leagues, your rival lost, and the butthurt is flowing from fans of BBN across the land.
Now open your eyes.
Oh wait, we fit the above criteria!
Auburn decided to exert a little force and contact basketball on the Kentucky Wildcats last night, beating the Cats in nearly every category and dominating the glass. For a team that’s usually peppered with five star redwoods, that’s an accomplishment. Auburn out-rebounded Kentucky 42-28, including a wild 17-6 disparity on the offensive glass. Austin Wiley was an enforcer last night, sucking in 10 rebounds over Nick Richards, who’d been playing like the best big man in the SEC heading into the weekend.
Kentucky got 45 of its 66 points from Tyrese Maxey and Immanuel Quickley, and was more efficient shooting from inside the arc, outside the arc, and from the free throw line. However, in the world of college basketball, volume often matters.
In a SHOCKING turn of events, Kentucky didn’t get the benefit of the doubt from the officials, and Auburn went to the foul line 44 times last night. FORTY-FOUR! The Tigers hit 33 attempts, so with Kentucky’s 20-24 effort from the line, that was effectively the difference in scoring last night. Without Samir Doughty decided to just force officials to make the calls, Auburn doesn’t win 75-66. They likely don’t win at all.
Still, Kentucky was fairly efficient last night. 41% from the floor, 38% from three, 83% from the line. That’s going to be a tough line to beat, unless literally every other statistic goes the other way. That’s where Auburn won the game. The Tigers were better on the glass, got higher bench production, more fastbreak points, more assists, more steals (Seven to nothing), and fewer turnovers. Like in football, a couple interceptions can effectively tell the tale of a game where the rest of the stats don’t really bear out the result. Auburn’s ruggedness tells the tale of last night’s game.
Kentucky had their opportunities too — Auburn had the slow start in terms of shooting that we’ve seen all year long. The vast majority of the offense to open the game came from Samir Doughty at the foul line. He had 7 of Auburn’s first 10 points from the stripe, while Kentucky started off with three consecutive successful possessions.
Kentucky’s shooting went down a bit, they hit foul trouble, and Auburn started to hit some shots. Crazy how that happens. For opposing teams, you need to learn to bury the Tigers when they have a slow start. A 20-point lead isn’t enough, especially if it’s at home.
At home. WOW. The number of times over the last 20 years that I’ve watched games in East Lansing, Durham, Lawrence, Lexington, etc, where the crowd turned into another player for the home team is nearly endless. How jealous were we all of that kind of fan support? Sure, we’d had sellouts before when Alabama or a top-ranked Kentucky/Florida team came calling, but this is different. College Gameday was there for crying out loud. It’s quickly becoming evident that Bruce Pearl might be the best athletic hire in school history. When Pat Dye was brought on, he took a dormant program back to the top. Auburn had football success before. Bruce Pearl essentially built a program from scratch. It’s unreal. I’m so thankful that he was given the time at a place that would appreciate his work.
As for the result from last night, Auburn isn’t just beating Kentucky on a regular basis now, they’re turning heads.
You know who that is already — the number one high school player in America right now. We’ve already got one five star committed, and maybe another one on the way. Auburn is already a problem for the SEC and the nation, but the untapped potential is ridiculous. We went to a Final Four without elite talent. Imagine what we can do once we start getting the top players in America to play in Auburn Arena.
Oh, and this was pretty awesome too:
Thankfully the best player in the G-League has finally gotten the call. Congrats to Jared Harper on his move into the big leagues! War Eagle!