Kentucky took more than solace in having a chance to defeat the nation’s No. 2-ranked team going into the final minutes. The game stoked a desire for revenge.
“We hope to see them again,” Kellan Grady said after UK lost 80-71 at Auburn on Saturday.
Kentucky had four more baskets (29-25) and outscored Auburn 42-32 in the paint and 16-6 on fast breaks. UK led for 21 minutes and 32 seconds. Auburn led for 15 minutes and 15 seconds.
“It showed how good a team we are,” Grady said. “There’s a reason this was such a hyped-up game.”
Oscar Tshiebwe echoed the desire to play Auburn again.
“I wish we had TyTy (Washington) and Sahvir (Wheeler),” he said. “We could leave this place with a win. …
“I hope we match up with them again — probably in the SEC Tournament — when everybody will be healthy and ready to go.”
When asked why he wanted a rematch, Tshiebwe said, “because I don’t think they’re better than us, in our opinion. I think we’re going to beat them. I want to play them again. I want to see them.”
UK coaches have suggested that too much is made of shooting. The last two games would be helpful in making that case.
UK won at Texas A&M earlier this week despite matching a season low for shooting accuracy: 36.2 percent (21 of 58).
Then UK lost at Auburn despite making half its shots.
“Every game is different,” said Grady, who made two of 10 shots at A&M and five of nine at Auburn. That included one of nine on threes at A&M and four of seven at Auburn.
“A&M is a good team,” he said. “Auburn is a great team. I think it’s that simple.”
With Washington limited to nine minutes and Wheeler again shook up by running blindly into a screen, was Calipari tempted to insert late-arriving freshman Shaedon Sharpe into the game?
“It wouldn’t have been fair to the kid,” the UK coach said. “I just wish we had a bunch of practice time where I had two weeks with him.”
Perhaps referencing injury or NBA stock, Calipari added, “I told his parents I’m not going to put him in a position where he hurts himself. I’m not. … If he ends up playing this year, it’s because he’s capable of doing it. We’ll play him. I’m not just shoving him in so we could win another game or stay closer.”
Three times UK fouled Auburn players taking three-point shots. The Auburn players made nine of nine free throws.
When asked how big a no-no fouling a three-point shooter is, Calipari said, “I’m going to say why they did it. They knew (better).”
UK wanted to crowd Auburn’s three-point shooters and make them dribble.
“Get so close they can’t shoot,” Calipari said before speaking in the voice he suggested he received. “Yeah, but he’ll dribble around me and I’ll look bad.
“That’s young kids. But we’ll get better.”
‘Fear The Jungle’
Before the game the CBS telecast showed the Auburn student section holding up a banner reading “Fear The Jungle.”
Former Auburn coach Sonny Smith now does analyst on radio broadcasts of the Tigers’ games. This 10th sellout crowd for a home game this season had his attention.
“I’ve never seen the atmosphere at Auburn as good as it is right now,” he said before the game.
After the game, Grady said, “I see why they call it the jungle.”
Calipari was seeking his 800th “on-court” victory as a college coach. He would be the fourth-fastest to this milestone by doing so in his 1,136th game.
The three faster to 800 victories are Adolph Rupp (972 games), Roy Williams (1,012) and Dean Smith (1,029).
Kentucky’s all-time victory total remained at 2,342.
Kansas rallied to beat Kansas State 78-75 to raise its second-most all-time victory total to 2,339. The Jayhawks trailed 50-34 at halftime.
UK plays at Kansas next Saturday.
Too few free-throw attempts has been a theme this UK season. UK’s 10 free throw attempts was not a season low. The Cats shot only eight in victories over High Point and Mount St. Mary’s. Auburn’s 29 free-throw attempts was a season high for a UK opponent. … In games decided by single digits, UK’s record fell to 1-4. Auburn’s record improved to 6-1. … At 7-0, Auburn is off to its best start in SEC play since beginning 12-0 in the 1958-59 season.