By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
When the Cats last played Auburn, they showed us a script for a game that has since become common place. The script is marked by the following features:
1. A strong finish in the first half, propelling the Cats to a comfortable half time lead.
2. A strong start to the second half that expands the strong halftime.
3. The opponent stages second half rallies that evaporate most if not all of the early second half lead
This is the pattern that the Cats have seemed to follow since they won by 2 points at Auburn. At Auburn, the game was tied, 27-27 at the under 4 media time out, but the Cats finished the half strong to lead by 8 points, 35-27 at the half. In the first 2 ½ minutes of the second half, the Cats expanded that lead to 16 points, 45-29. However, by the second half under 4 media time out, Auburn was very much in the game, with the Cats clinging to a 4 point lead, 76-72 with about 3 minutes left in the game. Auburn regained the lead with less than a minute to play, and with the Cats leading by 2, an Auburn 3 point attempt missed the mark at the end, with the Cats winning 82-80.
On Tuesday night, at Missouri, the game followed this script, with one additional factor. Late in the game, Reid Travis left the game with a sprained knee and did not return. Work from the Wildcats’ camp this week indicate that Reid Travis will not be available for up to 2 weeks, with Auburn coming to Rupp on Saturday for a rematch that the Tigers have been anticipating since they dropped the game by 2 points to the Cats in January.
#14 AUBURN brings a 18-8, 7-6 SEC record into this game against the Cats. Since their loss to the Cats 5 weeks ago, Auburn has been 5-4, losing on the road at #89 South Carolina by 3, at #23 Mississippi State by 8, and at #21 LSU by 5, and losing at home to #39 Mississippi by 5. Auburn’s wins have been at home over #101 Missouri by 34, #63 Alabama by 21, #31 Florida by 14, and #65 Arkansas 23, and at #111 Vanderbilt by 11. Auburn is currently 6th in the SEC, 2 games behind #4 South Carolina for the last double bye in the SEC Tournament. Auburn needs to get a huge win in Lexington if it hopes to move up and secure that final double bye for the Tournament, making Auburn a very dangerous opponent for the Cats.
The Tigers schedule has a SOS value of 0.0836 ppp (#34). The AUBURN ANE for the season stands at 0.261 ppp and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.250 ppp.
The Cats’ schedule has a SOS value of 0.0895 ppp (#27). The Cats’ ANE for the season stands at 0.298 ppp, their season ANE since game 7 has been 0.356 ppp, and their ANE over the last 5 games is 0.333 ppp.
The ANE analysis based on Kentucky’s ANE since game 7 indicates a Kentucky margin of 10 points, 80-70, in a game played at a pace of 70 possessions. As a matter of record, the traditional ANE analysis indicates a 6 1/2 point Kentucky advantage and a “last 5” analysis indicates a UK advantage of 10 points. Pomeroy has this game as a 7 point Kentucky win, 75-68, at a pace of 67 possessions. Vegas has opened with the Cats favored by 7 ½ points.
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