Coming off of a 20 point road blowout of the Georgia Bulldogs the Wildcats may have gotten over their road woes this season. The Cats boast one of the most intimidating home court advantages in all of college basketball. Their unblemished home record backs it up.
The Cats are no stranger to marquee games this season with games against Duke, North Carolina, and Louisville. Ashton Hagans had his breakout offensive game against the Bulldogs last game, scoring 23 points on 9/18 shooting. What was most impressive is that Kentucky won on the road, by 20 points, without leading scorer Keldon Johnson scoring a point.
Auburn presents a much taller task than Georgia, given their top 10 offensive efficiency rating, per KenPom Ratings. Both the Tigers and the Wildcats boast top 20 strength of schedules on the season. This game is especially important for Kentucky as this begins a murderous stretch of games against #24 Mississippi State and #7 Kansas. Winning this game would be a great way to really kickstart this young, dangerous Kentucky team as February rapidly approaches.
The Auburn Tigers are tied for fifth in the country in three-pointers made (10.9) and fourth in three-pointers attempted (30). Kentucky has, at times, struggled mightily to defend the three. Most notably the blow out loss to the Duke Blue Devils and the shocking loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide. In fact, Kentucky ranks 286th out of 351 eligible teams in defending the three.
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However, Kentucky certainly has advantages in the interior, ranking seventh in the country in rebounding margin. The Cats will have to dominate on the glass, particularly on the offensive glass, to have a chance in this game. PJ Washington and Reid Travis will be the key players to watch in this game.
Keldon Johnson and Auburn’s Bryce Brown, who leads the Tigers in scoring at 16.2 points per game will be the key matchup to keep an eye on. Both are capable of taking a game over and both are vital to their team’s success.
Kentucky’s recent surge on the offensive end and rapid improvement on the defensive end give a lot of reasons for optimism. Auburn’s three-point shooting makes them a dangerous team capable of scoring chunks of points quickly. It also makes them susceptible to teams that thrive in transition.
Kentucky takes advantage of Auburn’s quick shooting tendencies in transition and limits Auburn’s offensive rebounding. The Cats pull away late and escape Auburn with a huge win.
Kentucky 70 Auburn 63
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