No. 12 Kentucky unable to overcome road obstacles; fall 80-71 at No. 2 Auburn


Kentucky Wildcats guard Davion Mintz (10) complains about a no foul call during the Kentucky vs. Auburn men’s basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Alabama. UK lost 80-71. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

No. 12 Kentucky was unable to overcome injuries and a raucous road environment inside Auburn Arena on Saturday, falling to the No. 2 Auburn Tigers 80-71. 

The loss drops Kentucky to 15-4 (5-2 SEC,) snapping a four-game winning streak. Auburn’s win makes 15 in a row for the now 18-1 (7-0 SEC) Tigers.  

“That hurt us. No excuses, we had our chances to win,” UK head coach John Calipari said after the loss.  

After a scorching hot start, the injury bug once again bit the Wildcats away from Rupp Arena.  

While leading 25-16 with just over eight minutes left in the first half, Kentucky starting point guard TyTy Washington Jr hit the deck after a collision in the paint. Washington would leave the game and not return due to a left ankle injury.  

“It hurts us. [Washington] is a playmaker,” Calipari said. “If he needs to go get a basket, he can do it. We don’t have those guys [otherwise].” 

Following Washington’s injury, the Tigers would outscore UK 64-46. Unfortunately for Kentucky, Washington would not be the only guard to take a fall on Saturday.  

Starting point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who previously missed two games this season due to a neck injury after running into a screen, left for a portion of the second half after doing the same thing against Auburn.  

With 11:28 remaining in the second half, Wheeler would remain down on the court for several minutes after taking another bump on a screen. The Georgia transfer would return, take another hard fall after yet again finding a set pick, but finish the game.  

“I’m worried about Sahvir,” Calipari said. “I told him in the last four minutes, ‘why don’t you just come out?” 

Calipari noted that regarding Wheeler and Washington’s injuries, he was not going to risk playing them if he did not feel that they were healthy enough to go. 

“At the end of the day, I’m coaching someone’s child,” Calipari said. 

Wheeler would lead the team in points, scoring 17 along with Kellan Grady. After a rough outing against Texas A&M that was plagued by turnovers, Wheeler would commit just one TO while dishing out four assists.  

Oscar Tshiebwe and Auburn’s Walker Kessler would partake in a battle of behemoths down low on Saturday. 

Despite the loss, Tshiebwe once again put up a double-double, scoring 16 points while nabbing 14 rebounds. Kessler would rebuttal with a team-high 19 points for the Tigers to go along with seven rebounds and two assists.  

Kentucky was unable to stifle Kessler at the rim all night, as the North Carolina transfer continuously found easy dunks, thanks to multiple lobs from pick-and-rolls. 

“[Auburn] have done that to a lot of teams. That’s something we thought we could guard,” Calipari said. 

Auburn’s star freshman Jabari Smith put up usual numbers against the Cats, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists.  

While the final score went the way of the Tigers, the box score favors the Cats aside from one crucial statistic.  

UK would make four more shots than Auburn while beating the Tigers in points off turnovers (22-13,) second-chance points (14-11,) points in the paint (42-32) and fastbreak points (16-6.) 

Auburn would make its mark from the charity stripe on Saturday, connecting on 24 of 29 free throw attempts. Kentucky would attempt just 12, making five. 

“Just a couple of big plays here and there,” Calipari said. “They had 16 more points at the free throw line than us.”  

Without its starting twoguard in front of a roaring, sold-out crowd, Kentucky would continue to fight, clawing at single-digit deficits until the final buzzer sounded.  

Down by just seven with a minute to go, UK would turn the ball over on two of its final three possessions. The Cats finished with just nine TO’s on Saturday.  

The Tigers would shoot 59 percent in the second halfen route to a 51-point period, led by 16 points from KD Johnson. Auburn would make 21 free throws in the second half.  

With not much in his teams’ favor, Calipari’s group failed to execute on the road, but will leave Auburn with some positives moving forward.  

“We’ll get better. It’s obviously not what we want,” Calipari said. “We made more field goals than them.” 

Kentucky will return to Rupp Arena for its next game, hosting the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Tuesday, Jan. 25. Kentucky is a perfect 13-0 at home this season.  

Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. E.T.