By LARRY VAUGHT
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said his team had a clear way that it wanted to attack Kentucky’s defense Saturday — and it worked reasonably well.
“The only way we could score was to bring their bigs underneath the basket, set ball screens, and drive it down the hill. That wasn’t very pretty, and it doesn’t require a lot of passing. It’s just T.J. Dunans or Jared Harper, guys who’s not very striving downhill in scoring space,” Pearl said.
“Whether it was years ago when I coached against Ohio State and Greg Oden, or when I’ve coached against Kentucky’s bigs. We’ve always done it. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the farther I get Bam (Adebayo) away from the basket, the better fighting chance we have. He beat down a lot of balls and they’re going to see that all year long because they’re so good defensively.
“We thought we could turn a corner. We made some tough twos, they blocked some shots. We made nine threes and we probably should have made 13 or 14. I didn’t think that once our guys got downhill kicked it out enough to compliment getting to the rim, but I thought we would get it to the rim.”
Sounds reasonable — but not to Kentucky coach John Calipari. He said Auburn didn’t pull Adebayo away from the basket.
Instead, Calipari said Auburn — like every team — let whoever Wenyen Gabriel or Derek Willis was defending go to the basket.
“Space the court. Now you beat him (Gabriel or Willis) on the dribble,” Calipari said. “They have got to get better. Understand, every team is doing the same thing to us. This is not hard. If you can’t move your feet and stay in front of everybody, either I have to play a zone or you can’t play.
“That’s why I want Mychal (Mulder) we went small lineup. Let Mychal try to stay in front then. At the end of the day, if we’re going to be anything, it will be because we’re a terrific defensive team. We’re not there yet. We’re just not.
“But like I said, it’s a great win. These kids are trying. I love the chatter in the locker room. They were talking and you know, when kids are excited, they chatter. So you had just everybody in there talking and it was – then they talk louder and I’m in my office and I can hear them in there. That’s what I want to hear. I want to hear that at dinner. You know, it means they care about one another. They like each other. There’s some emotion between them. ”