Mon, 06 Apr 2020

No. 8 Kentucky eyes SEC title as No. 15 Auburn visits

Field Level Media
28 Feb 2020, 18:40 GMT+10

Kentucky will be seeking to clinch its 37th outright Southeastern Conference regular-season championship when it hosts Auburn on Saturday afternoon in Lexington, Ky.

The No. 8 Wildcats (23-5, 13-2 SEC) have a two-game lead on the 15th-ranked and second-place Tigers (24-4, 11-4) and have not lostsince a 75-66 setback at Auburn on Feb. 1.

A win over Auburn would give the Wildcats a three-game lead with two games remaining in the regular season. A loss would leave them needing at least one more win to ensure their 13th shared regular-season championship.

The Wildcats' 69-60 win at Texas AM on Tuesday was their seventh consecutive victory since the loss at Auburn.

Coach John Calipari talked about the significance of putting together a winning streak in relation to next month's NCAA Tournament after his Wildcats avoided what he called a "trap game" at College Station.

"Every year I coach, one, you're trying to go on a run of games so you can win X amount in a row," he said. "And the reason is to win a national title, you've gotta know you can win six in a row.

"If you don't win six in a row during your season, how in the world are you ever going to win six in a row in that tournament?"

Immanuel Quickley led the Wildcats' scoring with 30 points, a career high for the sophomore guard who has scored 77 points in his last three games. He is one of five Wildcats who has posted games of at least 25 points this season, along with Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Nick Richards, and E.J. Montgomery.

Calipari likes having multiple 25-point threats.

"The reason is," he said, "you're going to get in the tournament, and if someone gets hot for your team and they know they can do it because they've done it one time -- or twice or three times -- that guy may help you win and advance a game that you weren't going to win."

Auburn has dropped two games since beating the Wildcats, but with LSU losing Wednesday at Florida, the Tigers sit alone in second place in the conference. The Tigers have bounced back with home wins over Tennessee and Ole Miss since losing at Missouri and at Georgia with freshman Isaac Okoro out with a hamstring injury.

Okoro returned Wednesday and played 27 minutes, scoring 10 points in the 67-48 win over Ole Miss.

"Isaac coming back helped us defensively, with our guards in particular," coach Bruce Pearl said. "I planned on playing him about 16 minutes. He got eight in the first half on schedule, but the game was close in the second half, and he felt good, so we played him a little more, and he helped us."

Okoro scored 14 points in the earlier win over Kentucky.

The Tigers need a win to stay alone in second place in the league race, but would still need another Kentucky loss to gain at least a share of the SEC's regular-season title. The Tigers shared the SEC regular-season championship with Tennessee in 2018, their third title in program history.

--Field Level Media

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