Kentucky to face no. 14 ranked Auburn Tigers


UK huddles up and listens to a referee’s explanation of a call. University of Kentucky men’s basketball team defeated Vanderbilt University 56-47 at Rupp Arena on Saturday, January 12, 2019, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Braden Ramsey

No. 12 Kentucky (13-3, 3-1 SEC) stays on the road this weekend to take on a top SEC contender and one of the top teams in the country. This isn’t your grandpa’s Auburn team; in fact, Kentucky has lost their last two road games to the Tigers. The Cats look to correct the trend against the nation’s No. 14 team on Saturday. 

Auburn is 13-3 (2-1 SEC) on the season, and a sparkling 9-0 in Auburn Arena. Their only losses are to No. 1 Duke in the Maui Invitational semifinals, on the road at now-no. 17 NC State and at now No. 18 Ole Miss. It will take a big-time performance, similar to the ones against North Carolina and Louisville, for the Cats to take them down. While the Tigers have won two of the last three matchups against the Cats, Kentucky leads the all-time series 92-19.

The Tigers are led in scoring by senior guard Bryce Brown with 16.2 points per game. Junior guard Jared Harper is right behind him with 15.1 points per game, and leads the conference with 6.7 assists per game. Sophomore forward Chuma Okeke and junior center Austin Wiley each grab 6.1 rebounds per game to tie for the team lead. 

As a team, the Tigers are second in the SEC in scoring and lead the conference in both three-pointers made and three-pointers attempted. Defensively, they lead the conference in steals and rank second in blocks. They are solid every aspect of the game, except for one: free-throw shooting. Auburn ranks thirteenth of fourteen teams in the conference with a 67.6 percent clip from the charity stripe– well below Kentucky’s 75.4 percent that ranks second.  

The two teams will play at Rupp Arena later in the season, but the winner of Saturday’s contest will have the early head-to-head advantage that will provide an edge when it comes to next week’s AP ranking and seeding for the SEC tournament in March. The game is being televised on ESPN, with tip-off set for 4:00 p.m.