By LARRY VAUGHT
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl admitted he was “disappointed” with his team’s 82-80 home loss to Kentucky Saturday, especially with the “great environment” at Auburn Arena for the Southeastern Conference showdown between top 15 teams.
Kentucky built a 17-point lead early in the second half before Auburn came charging back to take the lead with less than a minute to play.
“It had a lot with us staying engaged. I thought the kids didn’t panic. We got down in the second half and took it one possession at a time,” Pearl said.
However, the Auburn coach was gracious in his praise of Kentucky.
“Kentucky’s bigger at every position. They’re more physical at every position, and the way they could beat us is the way they could beat us, coming off of physical pin-downs, posting us up on the inside. They fouled out both Horace Spencer and Anfernee McLemore,” Pearl said.
“We fouled them too much — sent them to the foul line way too much. This is the fourth straight SEC game where we’ve had a deficit when it came to getting to the foul line. We’ve got to finish more physically ourselves through contact and find ways to get to the foul line more ourselves.”
Wait. Pearl was not finished.
“I thought that obviously Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro had big nights (both scored 20 points for UK). I think they looked right over our guards,” Pearl said. “They just looked right over the top of our guards and made shots and was able to get to the rim. We weren’t able to put up enough pressure to be able to extend them far enough away from the basket where that was a factor.
“The second thing was just their ability to go inside and score. Kentucky played well. They’re good. They’re good. Definitely. They’re better than last year’s team. And I think they’re going to have a really good year.”