Coach Cal said earlier this week that he didn’t think this team could “whomp” anybody like teams of the past. Well I think they got the message he was trying to send tonight, and they dominated the second half against Auburn and won by 22 points. This was by far the most complete game Kentucky has put together all season.
Willie Cauley-Stein didn’t travel with the team as most of you know, because of minor knee surgery he had on Friday. So hearing the news I honestly thought this game would be very close, and I thought we might actually lose. Neither team could hit anything coming out of the gate as they combined for an awful 1-21 combined in the first half from three-point range. Kyle Wiltjer and Alex Poythress had to step up tonight for this team to pull out the much-needed victory on the road. Alex and Kyle did just that as they combined for 29 points and 11 rebounds. More importantly the hustle from both of these guys was steady all game, which allowed the offense to come easier later in the game.
Ryan Harrow was very impressive again tonight as he finished with 12 points and 7 assists. Coach Cal has always told him to be stronger with the ball, and I actually saw Calipari tonight tell him “Way to be tough with the ball” so he was excited for Ryan just like all of the fans were.
Nerlens Noel is a game changer. Coming into the season everybody wanted to compare him to Anthony Davis, and it’s not fair but I honestly don’t think it’s that far off. He changes the game just like Davis did, and he is a dominate force on the defensive end. Noel is always knocking on the door of a triple-double, and he did again tonight as he ended up with 10 points, 7 blocks and 9 rebounds. Oh, let me add he only played 23 minutes due to foul trouble.
Jarrod Polson, Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays were huge all game as well. Polson had 6 points off the bench, and was solid as Harrow also battled foul trouble. Archie did a little bit of everything tonight and ended up with 12 points and 7 rebounds. Mays had 6 points, but was great on defense as he and Archie shut down Auburn’s best player in Frankie Sullivan.
I was extremely pleased with the effort tonight, and hopefully they build off this performance going into another tough road game at Alabama on Tuesday. Hopefully WCS will be back for the game, but if not it’ll be up to Alex and Kyle to step up once again.
Kentucky defeats Auburn 75-53 behind 17 points from Kyle Wiltjer.