Tigers Preparing for Rematch With Wildcats

Coach Tony Barbee

Comments from Auburn basketball coach Tony Barbee plus senios Frankie Sullivan and Rob Chubb are featured as the Tigers prepare to play Kentucky.

Auburn, Ala.--Tony Barbee's basketball Tigers will get a do-over on Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats, a team Auburn lost to on Jan. 19th in one of the more disappointing performances of the season.

Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. CST at Rupp Arena and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.

The Wildcats came into their first matchup with the Tigers holding an 11-5 record at that time. Since then the Wildcats have posted a 5-1 mark. Auburn was 8-8 going into the Jan. 19th game vs. Kentucky and has posted a 1-5 record since then.

The first Auburn-Kentucky game was close for a half, but the Tigers couldn't overcome 34.8 shooting that included a horrible performance behind the three-point line. Auburn put up 15 treys in the contest and didn't make one, the first time since 1997 than an Auburn team didn't make at least one three-pointer. As a result the Wildcats took an easier than expected 75-53 victory.

"I thought we played too fast in that first game," Barbee said. "We have got to be more deliberate in our offense because our quick offense, which we weren't very effective in, led to a lot of breakout, easy points for them. That is what they rely on."

Rob Chubb grabs a rebound in Auburn's first game vs. Kentucky this season.

The Tigers come into Saturday's game relieved to have snapped a six-game losing streak. They did that on Wednesday night with a 49-37 victory over Alabama. Kentucky's last game on Tuesday was a 77-55 victory over South Carolina, a fourth straight victory for the defending national champions.

Barbee said after studying video of his team's first game vs. the Wildcats the Tigers took "too many quick, bad shots," especially in the second half when Auburn was outscored 45-28. "That allowed them to get out and get on that big run that got away from us," the coach noted.

Nerlens Noel is one of the top freshmen in the country this season.

Barbee said it will be important for the Tigers to hit their jump shots on Saturday at Rupp Arena because of the height of UK's post players, who make it tough to score on drives to the basket. Nerlens Noel is particularly challenging to shoot over. The 6-10 freshman is averaging 4.6 blocked shots per game to go with averages of 10.6 points and 9.5 rebounds.

Archie Goodwin, a six-four freshman guard, is the leading scoring for UK at 14.7 points per game. Alex Poythress, a 6-7 freshman forward, is averaging 12.5 points and 6.6 rebounds. Ryan Harrow, a 6-2 sophomore guard, is averaging 10.3 points. Kyle Wiltjer, a 6-10 sophomore forward, is averaging 11.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

"We got a ton of open shots," Barbee said of the last game vs. the Wildcats. "Hopefully, we will shoot it better on the road than we did in the first game."

Barbee said he has no clue if the Tigers will get a boost from their victory over Alabama, but he did say he was certain that he liked the way the Tigers played defensively vs. the Tide.

"I thought we guarded for 40 minutes the other night," the coach said. "That didn't mean we didn't have breakdowns, but we were in tune, we were giving effort, we were locked in away from the ball--a lot of things we haven't been. That is what I am going to be looking for and that will tell the tale, probably, in the outcome of the game.

Sullivan's Shooting Slump: Guard Frankie Sullivan finished 1-13 from the field vs. Alabama. His scoring average is down to 16.1 points per game and his field goal percentage is down to 37.7 percent. In SEC games Sullivan is making just 33.6 percent of his shots.

"It was like there was a lid on the basket for me," the senior said of his struggles shooting on Wednesday night. Sullivan added it was a relief to beat Alabama and end the losing streak. "Everybody played good defense," he said, pointing out, "That is the only reason we won the game--it surely wasn't the offense."

Jungle Love: Barbee had praise for the home crowd on Wednesday night, particularly the student section called "The Jungle." The coach said the Auburn Arena featured an "electric atmosphere."

Rivalry, Road Trip: Senior center Rob Chubb agreed with Sullivan and Barbee that defense was the key to victory for the Tigers vs. Alabama and noted it was important to the players to end their losing streak and win the rivalry game. "We like any sort of opportunity we can to stick it to Alabama," said Chubb, adding the players were glad to give fans the opportunity to celebrate the victory by rolling Toomer's Corner.

Home and Home: The Tigers and Wildcats are playing each other twice in the regular season for the first time since the 1990-91 season when there were just 10 teams in the SEC.

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