KENTUCKY 75, AUBURN 53
Jan. 19, 2013
Auburn Arena; Auburn, Ala.
There was no Willie Cauley-Stein and, for several long stretches, no foul-plagued Nerlens Noel but Kentucky found a way to get a second Southeastern Conference road win in as many tries.
The Cats turned a close game at halftime into a laugher, routing Auburn 75-53 in front of a sold out crowd of 9,121 foaming at the mouth for an upset. Kyle Wiltjer displayed his shooting touch and deft passing ability in the first half to offset Noel missing the final nine minutes, while Ryan Harrow got into the act as the Cats pulled away in the second half.
UK finished the game shooting 54.5 percent, a stunning reversal after starting the game 2-of-14 from the field. Auburn struggled mightily on the offensive end, shooting 34.8 percent from the field and missing all 15 of its three-pointers.
Wiltjer finished with 17 points and five assists, while Noel added 10 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks.
Nerlens Noel had another stat sheet with a lot of crooked numbers in it but it was Kyle Wiltjer's second consecutive impressive outing that steadied the game in the first half when Noel got in foul trouble. The sophomore forward finished with 17 points and five assists, and still had several early three-pointers go halfway down before coming back out, providing more hope to Kentucky fans all but begging for him to step forward and be to veteran presence John Calipari's latest group of freshmen need the rest of the season.
The Cats began to widen their five-point halftime lead early in the second half and led 55-43 with 10 minutes to go before exploding on a 17-2 run that put the game out of reach. It was similar to the 23-6 game-ending run UK unleashed at Auburn Arena to ultimately record a 15-point win there last season.
Ryan Harrow did not have his best half of the season in the first 20 minutes, looking tentative against the Auburn defense and struggling with his shot. The sophomore point guard was a different player after the break, attacking the rim, getting out in transition and setting up teammates as Kentucky poured it on. Harrow finished with 12 points, eight assists, five rebounds and five turnovers in 34 minutes.
68.3 – Kentucky started the game making just two of its first 14 shots. For the non-math majors out there that's 14 percent. Read that again, then figure out just how good the Cats had to be the rest of the way to finish the game 54.5 percent from the field. UK made 28 of its final 41 field goal attempts, good for 68.3 percent after the rough start, and connected on four of five three-pointers in the second half after going 1-of-10 before the break.
Four days after John Calipari offered a postgame dissertation on how his squad wouldn't 'whomp' any of its opponents this season the Cats did exactly that, in a road game no less. Whether Calipari actually believed that or was using some reverse psychology the result was exactly what he and a restless fan base needed and wanted. The big question now becomes whether this was the beginning of a different UK team or an outlier.
Kentucky (12-5, 3-1) continues its Alabama swing when it travels to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night for a 9 p.m. tip at Coleman Coliseum.