When Kentucky faced Auburn on Saturday, there was a bit of uneasiness in the Big Blue Nation. It wasn’t so much of a question of whether or not the Cats could beat the Tigers. After all, they had traveled to Auburn a little over a month ago and defeated Bruce Pearl’s team 82-80 at the point in the season the Cats were really starting to put it all together. And there is no doubt that Calipari’s team has been growing by leaps and bounds since that time.
The uneasiness was of course due to Tuesday night’s injury to Reid Travis. The player who had been cited as making the game a lot easier for PJ Washington suffered a knee sprain in Missouri and will miss approximately 2 weeks. Saturday was the first game the Cats played without Travis in the lineup. How would that affect chemistry, rotations, and overall morale?
In the end, it wasn’t much of a contest and it seemed to be a very safe bet that Calipari would pass Joe B. Hall and hold 2nd place alone for most program victories. To do so on the same day the 1958 National Championship team was honored seemed only fitting.
The first half showed the Cats certainly could be effective with Reid on the bench and Montgomery filling the starting role. By the end of the half, the Cats had a 14-point lead primarily on the strength of 9-17 shooting from 3-point land. Overall, the Cats shot 60.7% for the half while holding Auburn to 37.5%. But the biggest difference maker appeared to be in the assists column where Kentucky had 13 to Auburn’s 4.
After a halftime show featuring The Firecrackers, the BBN hoped the Cats wouldn’t lose their focus or energy and would put Auburn away early in the 2nd half to eliminate any question as to who the victor would be.
The Wildcats did just that. While the 3-point assault slowed considerably, Kentucky did everything else to keep Pearl’s team on their heels. PJ Washington continued to be a scoring machine with 24 points (his 6th straight game to lead the Cats in scoring) and had a career-high 5 three-pointers. Keldon Johnson missed out on a double-double by scoring only 8 points but that was balanced by having a career-high 17 rebounds and 5 assists. Hagans (14 points, 5 assists) and Herro (17 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists) rounded out the bulk of UK’s scoring.
The loss drops Auburn to 18-9 (7-7) and improved the Cats’ ‘record to 23-4 (12-2). With the Volunteers losing to LSU today, the Cats are now tied for 2nd in the SEC with Tennessee, trailing LSU by a game. Kentucky will be back in action on Tuesday night when Arkansas comes to town for a late game.
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