John Calipari has made no secret that this team will not “whomp” on teams like we are accustomed to seeing. After being handled at home by Texas A&M, the ‘Cats welcome lowly Tennessee into Rupp. While the ‘Cats still struggled with the Vols, Kyle Wiltjer had a breakout game. The ‘Cats may need another one from #33 at Auburn.
After having a minor procedure done to his knee, Willie Cauley-Stein did not make the trip. Who will get the start in his place? After another breakout performance against Tennessee, head coach John Calipari praised Wiltjer. He said Kyle has really been doing the extra work in the gym, and is now the most vocal guy on the team. Wiltjer is building his own confidence and may become one of the leaders that this Kentucky team desperately needs. Auburn currently ranks 12th in the SEC in 3-point defense, and Wiltjer could light up the Tigers and the scoreboard tonight.
Besides not being able to guard the 3 ball very well, the Tigers don’t really have a guy on their bench that can matchup with freshman phenom Nerlens Noel. With Cauley-Stein sitting at home, Noel will probably be going up against Auburn’s Rob Chubb. Last year against Anthony Davis, Chubb at a 14 point, 8 rebound game against the #1 draft pick. Against a superior athlete in Noel, Chubb may have some serious problems trying to contain and control the 6’10” freshman. While Noel has the advantage, Chubb does have a weight advantage of at least 30 lbs. He may be able to throw his weight around enough to create space against Noel.
Every team seems to have a scoring combo guard that wants to light the Wildcats up on the offensive end. Like Elston Turner and Jordan McRae before him, Auburn has a guy named Frankie Sullivan that makes a living from the perimeter. Sullivan will get his shots, and he can keep this game well in Auburn’s grasp if the ‘Cats cannot find a way to shut him down.
While Auburn head coach Tony Barbee has been very coy about his status, Chris Denson looks to make a return from a foot injury and play against Kentucky. He is the Tigers 2nd leading scorer on the season, but he’s only played in 5 games. Latest word is that he is dressed and is warming up, so all signs point to him playing tonight.
While the ‘Cats need a dominant win on the road, the Tigers are hopeful for a little magic to pull off the upset. Sullivan needs to go off for Auburn, and Wiltjer needs to go off against that horrid 3-point defense. Auburn is 8-8 (2-1 SEC), have lost 13 straight games to Kentucky, and lost 27 of the last 28 overall in the series. It’s the ‘Cats and Tigers, 9:00 ET, ESPNU.