Kentucky set to take on Auburn


Kentucky head coach John Calipari talks to Freshman guard Immanuel Quickley while walking off of the court. UK men’s basketball team played against Auburn at Rupp Arena on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Barkley Truax

The No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats haven’t lost a game since traveling to Auburn Arena Feb. 1. This time around, the No. 15 Auburn Tigers travel to Lexington for a game that could potentially decide the SEC regular season as the Cats take a shot at redemption.

Kentucky (23-5, 13-2 SEC) is two games ahead of Auburn (24-4, 11-4 SEC) heading into Saturday’s game, one of the most important matchups for both teams all season. If Auburn can upset Kentucky at home, the Tigers have a chance to steal first place in the SEC heading into the last week of the regular season. On the other hand, if Kentucky can pick up the win, they clinch the SEC regular season title. 

“They rebound really well,” UK freshman guard Johnny Juzang said. “They play hard, they play physical. So that’s things you have to go into the game aware of and try to be the aggressor and make the first punch.”

In the time since Kentucky met Auburn earlier this month, Immanuel Quickley has averaged 21.6 points per game. His hot hand, especially in the past two games have led the Wildcats to victory over tough Florida and Texas A&M teams. Quickley scored 26 against Florida and 30 at Texas A&M, making him the first Kentucky player to score 25 or more in back to back nights since Malik Monk in 2017, and the first UK player to score 30 since Shai Gilegous-Alexander in 2018. Against Florida, Quickley drained eight three-pointers, tying Monk, Jamal Murray and Eric Bledsoe for the most in a game during the Calipari era. 

Quickley scored 23 against Auburn last time and that still wasn’t enough to take the Tigers down. A big matchup will be in the paint between Nick Richards and Austin Wiley.

Richards had one of his poorest performances of the season in the loss to Auburn, putting up seven points and seven boards in 38 minutes for the Wildcats. Wiley on the other hand dropped 12 points and 10 rebounds. 

Wiley has 12 double doubles this season, second most in the SEC, only behind Reggie Perry (15) of Mississippi State. Richards follows in third with 10. In a conference with several high-level big men, Richards and Wiley are at the top of the list and will go head to head this Saturday.

“Wiley’s been playing great,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. He’s rebounding offensively. Had seven against us last time. I think he has as many offensive rebounds as he has defensive. So, he’s playing great.”

While tickets are sold out for Saturday’s home game, you can still catch the game live on CBS at 3:45 p.m.