First Scouting Report: Can Kentucky spoil the joy ride for Bruce Pearl and Auburn?

·3 min read

An early look ahead to the Kentucky Wildcats’ next men’s basketball game:

The opponent

No. 12 Kentucky (15-3, 5-1 SEC) will face No. 2 Auburn (17-1, 6-0 SEC) on Saturday, Jan. 22, at Auburn Arena (capacity 9,121) on the campus of Auburn University in Alabama.

The game will tip off at 1 p.m. (EST) and be telecast by CBS (WKYT-TV, Channel 27 in Lexington).

Coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers defeated SEC rival Georgia 83-60 at Auburn on Wednesday night.

Series history

Kentucky leads the all-time series with Auburn 96-22 but the Tigers have won three of the past five games.

Most recent meeting

Isaiah Jackson had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Brandon Boston added 17 points, three assists and four steals as Kentucky defeated Auburn 82-80 on Feb. 13, 2021, at Rupp Arena.

Power rankings

Through Tuesday’s games, the NCAA’s NET Rankings had Kentucky No. 10 and Auburn No. 6.

The Kenpom Rankings rated UK No. 5 and Auburn No. 9.

Kentucky stood No. 8 in the Sagarin Ratings with Auburn No. 9.

Know your foe

1. Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl will be seeking a rare distinction when the Tigers play host to the Wildcats. In his stints as head man at Tennessee (2006 through 2011) and Auburn (since 2014-15), Pearl has gone 9-16 vs. Kentucky.

Pearl went 4-9 vs. UK as UT head man, and is 5-7 vs. the Cats at Auburn.

A 10th victory over Kentucky would put Pearl on a short list of coaches with double-digit victories over the Wildcats.

The coaches who have beaten Kentucky at least 10 times (in order of wins): 1. Dale Brown 18; 2. Billy Donovan 17; 3. Bob Knight, Ray Mears 15; 5. Roy Skinner 14; 6, Dean Smith 13; 7. Kevin Stallkings 12; 8. Don DeVoe, Wimp Sanderson 11; 10. C.M. Newton, Roy Williams 10.

2. Auburn star freshman Jabari Smith may be the most-talented player in men’s college basketball this season. The versatile, 6-foot-10, 220-pound product of Fayetteville, Ga., was averaging 16.1 points and 6.2 rebounds going into Wednesday night’s game vs. Georgia.

Auburn star freshman forward Jabari Smith (10) has emerged as a leading contender to be the overall No. 1 choice in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Auburn star freshman forward Jabari Smith (10) has emerged as a leading contender to be the overall No. 1 choice in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Smith was hitting 44.2 percent of his three-point tries and averaging two assists, 1.5 steals and one blocked shot a game.

Jacob Toppin seems like the Kentucky player best-suited to try to guard Smith.

Those who compile NBA mock drafts love Smith. He is projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft by USA Today, SI.com and hoopshabit.com.

3. After starring last season as a freshman at Eastern Kentucky, Wendell Green is having a strong sophomore season at Auburn.

The 5-11, 175-pound sophomore from Detroit was averaging 13.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.4 steals going into the Tigers’ game with Georgia. Green was making 36.3 percent of his three-point attempts and 86.5 percent of his free throws.

Former Eastern Kentucky Colonels guard Wendell Green (1) has made a seamless transition to playing for Auburn and Coach Bruce Pearl.
Former Eastern Kentucky Colonels guard Wendell Green (1) has made a seamless transition to playing for Auburn and Coach Bruce Pearl.

In 2020-21 at EKU, Green was one of the best players in the Ohio Valley Conference averaging 15.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals while leading Coach A.W. Hamilton’s Colonels to a 22-7 season.

This year, without Green, Eastern is 9-10 so far in its first season in the ASUN Conference.

Meanwhile, Green had scored in double digits for Auburn in seven straight games with a high of 22 points in a victory at South Carolina on Jan. 4.

The point guard has produced boffo returns this season against teams from Kentucky. Green had 19 points, five rebounds and three assists in an Auburn win over Morehead State and 13 points, 10 rebounds and two assists as the Tigers vanquished Murray State.

Box score from Kentucky basketball’s 64-58 win at Texas A&M

Kentucky basketball overcomes many obstacles in winning at Texas A&M

Five things you need to know from Kentucky’s 64-58 win over Texas A&M