By LARRY VAUGHT
When Auburn beat Kentucky 75-66 on Feb. 1 there was one overwhelming reason the Wildcats lost — or at least UK coach John Calipari thought so.
Calipari credited Auburn’s physical play for allowing the Tigers to “manhandle” Kentucky and center Nick Richards had a hard time playing against Auburn center Austin Wiley.
“You better play lower than them and they get down. You better know that they’ll wedge you under the goal or they’ll, on block outs, they’re not afraid to bump and do stuff,” Calipari said Friday
Kentucky hosts Auburn today at 3:45 p.m. If the Cats win, the clinch the Southeastern Conference championship and No. 1 seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament.
Yet Calipari warned Friday that it will not be an easy game.
“Their guard play, they run downhill, we run downhill. We’re playing kind of similar in that,” Calipari said. “Wiley’s been playing great. He’s rebounding offensively. Had seven against us last time. I think he has as many offensive rebounds as he has defensive. So, he’s playing great.
“(Samir) Doughty’s hurt us every time we’ve played him and (Isaac) Okoro’s back, so they’re full strength and they’re a good team.”
Okoro has been injured but is expected to play Saturday and gives Auburn, which has had a propensity for making big comebacks to win this year, added depth.
“He’s a downhill runner and he’s an active rebounder. He can go left or right. It’s not like he’s just driving right. He’s a talented length guy and he’s a good defender, too,” Calipari said.
Calipari says winning the league title would be significant for one major reason.
“Our whole thing is, how do we get the best seed we can get? If that means win games, just keep winning so you have a good seed,” Calipari said.