By LARRY VAUGHT
Auburn’s Afternee McLemore thinks his team’s loss at Rupp Arena is a major reason the Tigers are playing Kentucky today in the Midwest Region final for a Final Four berth.
“I believe that we may have been spoiled early in the season from the previous year’s success. But coming from the Kentucky loss, there was a point in the locker room we felt like we were tired of losing,” McLemore said. “The atmosphere changed and all the guys became locked in and ready. We was more engaged and more ready to take on the rest of the season.”
Auburn has won 11 straight games, including wins over Kansas and North Carolina in its last two NCAA games. Now the Tigers get Kentucky.
Were any of the Tigers recruited by UK, North Carolina or Kansas?
“I wasn’t recruited by any of those schools. We’re be ready to play. You play good team defense as a unit and be able to prosper in that area,” Auburn senior Horace Spencer said.
“I wasn’t, either,” Auburn’s Malik Dunbar said. “Here and Ole Miss were my two biggest offers. I’m ready to play whoever they put in front of us. I’m blessed with the opportunity.”
“I wasn’t recruited by any of the schools. I think Chuma was recruited by Kansas. I don’t know. I don’t think we really take that too personal,” Auburn guard Jared Harper said. “We felt like we’re all good players. We’ve all been good players and have a great coach that believes in us here at Auburn. It was a perfect situation for all of us. We’re just happy to be here.”
“I wasn’t recruited at all,” Auburn’s Bryce Brown said. Ditto for Anfernee McLemore.
Kentucky’s roster is filled with McDonald’s All-Americans and players that have been in USA Basketball camps. Auburn, and most SEC teams, have to rely on recruits not as highly regarded.
“I just think that there’s so much more parity in college basketball, because there are more good teams both in high school and in the summer where these other guys are also training at a higher level than maybe back in the day,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “Back in the day it was clear who your first team All-state guys were and all your USA basketball guys, but there’s just now more to choose from.
“We’re not really missing them. You still got — still the tale of the tape. The guys with the big names and reputations, the big schools — when you see Kentucky take the floor against Auburn tomorrow, you’ll see a difference in the tale of the tape. We’ll be looking up to them at most positions. That’s why those guys play in McDonald’s game and our guys don’t.”