By RICHARD CHEEKS
The Cats’ string of 20+ point SEC wins to begin a conference season ended on Tuesday night in Nashville. The Commodores managed to stay within reach of the Cats to the final minute of the basketball game before falling to the Cats 87-81 in Nashville. While it is not a 20+ SEC victory, it is nonetheless another SEC road win, and the Cats remain unbeaten in four starts this SEC season.
In getting this 6 point win, the Cats overcame two major impediments to even winning.
First, Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox each committed two fouls within the first 3 minutes of the game, and the number 1 reserve guard, Dominique Hawkins committed 2 fouls within the next four minutes of the game. Coach Calipari found it necessary to violate his long standing coaching criteria that any player sits for the balance of the first half upon committing a second foul, and Coach Calipari sent both Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox back into the game for significant minutes of the first half.
Second, for the first time this season, the Cats found it almost impossible to make a 3 point shot, going 1 for 7 in the game. Despite the foul trouble and the poor perimeter shooting, the Cats still managed to get out of Nashville with a road win.
Road wins in the SEC usually come at a premium. However, this year has been the antithesis of this historical condition. There have been 26 SEC games thus far, and the visiting team has won 17 of these 26 games, leaving 9 home wins. Only Kentucky (2), Florida (2), and South Carolina (1) have won all their home games, and only Texas A&M (2) and Missouri (1) are winless on the road so far this season.
Today the Cats return to Rupp Arena and will host Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers.
AUBURN enters the game with a 11-5; 1-3 record. The Tigers lost games to #18 Purdue by 25 at a neutral site, #49 Georgia by 12 at home, at #64 Vanderbilt by 19, to #96 Mississippi by 3 at home, and to #151 Boston College by 1 at a neutral location. The Tigers’ most impressive win this season has been over #29 Texas Tech by 2 at a neutral location.
AUBURN enters this game with an ANE of 0.071 points per possession against a strength of schedule of 0.0210 ppp (#98). The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.337 ppp against a strength of schedule of 0.0523 ppp (#33).
The ANE analysis indicates a Kentucky win by 27 points, 92-65 at apace of 81 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.131 ppp and 0.799 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky’s favor by 25 points, 99-74 at a pace of 81 possessions.
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