By LARRY VAUGHT
Bryce Brown knows what to expect when No. 14 Auburn hosts No. 12 Kentucky Saturday afternoon.
“It will be a very exciting game,” Brown said after Auburn won 85-66 at Texas A&M. “Like always, every time we play Kentucky at home, the crowd and the fans are just amazing. The atmosphere, the intensity of a game – it will feel much like a rivalry. It’s time to step up.”
Brown believes winning the way the Tigers did at A&M will help going into Saturday’s game.
“That (win) will work wonders for us,” Brown said. “It’s our first true road win, and I feel like it helps us at home because we know if we can get the job done away from our place, we can definitely get it done at our place. We just want to keep getting as many road wins as we can because that will be the separator between us and other teams in the SEC. In the SEC, it’s hard to win road games.”
Kentucky will have a hard time winning if Brown has a first half like he did against the Aggies. He finished with 20 points on 7-for-14 shooting and scored 18 consecutive points in a five-minute span when he hit four straight 3-pointers. He got just two points in the second half but backcourt teammate Jared Harper hit four 3’s and scored 15 points in the second half to finish with 17 points, six assists, three steals and three rebounds.
Anfernee McLemore added 13 points and six rebounds off the bench. Chuma Okeke had 10 points and seven rebounds and Austin Wiley grabbed 12 rebounds for Auburn.
Auburn overwhelmed Texas A&M in second-chance points (20-8), points off turnovers (18-10), offensive rebounds (20-7) and bench points (27-5).
“We got beat by a very good basketball team,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “I thought that their defensive pressure and our inability to take care of the ball in the beginning of the game was critical. Harper and Brown dictated that game with their defensive pressure and their ability to make tough shots.”
Kennedy said Auburn plays a unique style.
“Their style of play was obviously different, they picked up full court and they pressured us and they denied ball reversals. We thought at times we were the Harlem Globetrotters trying to dribble, instead of making hard cuts and guys getting open and passing the ball,” Kennedy said. “When you don’t shoot the ball well as a team, teams load up and they get into gaps, so it’s hard to drive through a couple people.”
“Their ball pressure, they pressured the ball and instead of us being strong with the ball, we tried to break down the defense by playing one-on-one. We had seven assists and that’s what happens when you go one-on-one against pressure.”