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January 19, 2013

Cats deal Auburn worst home loss under Tony Barbee

AUBURN, Ala. - John Calipari said this week he didn't have a team capable of "whomping" an opponent.

The Kentucky coach said he couldn't imagine his team building a 20-point lead against anyone.

And as the Wildcats pulled away from Auburn for a 75-53 win Saturday night at Auburn Arena, some of Calipari's players took those words to heart.

"I heard it," forward Kyle Wiltjer said after scoring 17 points to lead Kentucky and adding five assists and four rebounds against the Tigers. "When we started playing good and going down the stretch, we just kind of huddled together and said we need to start burying teams, because in the past we've kind of played around with them."

On Saturday, the Cats (12-5, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) didn't toy with the Tigers (8-9, 2-2). Kentucky led by as many as 27 points, shook off a 2-for-14 shooting start to shoot 54.5 percent and held Auburn to 34.8 percent shooting.

That included holding the Tigers to 0-for-15 three-point shooting, the first time since Mississippi State went 0-for-19 on Feb. 10, 2001, that UK held an opponent without a made three-pointer. Auburn failed to make a three-point shot for the third time in school history, the first since March 1, 1997, at Ole Miss.

"We were better," Calipari said. "Like I kept saying: Just keep guarding. Because we couldn't make a shot either. Neither one of us could for a while. I thought we gutted it out and there was great execution when they made a mini run at us."

Playing without injured starter Willie Cauley-Stein, who stayed at home with a knee injury, the Cats had five players in double figures - Wiltjer with 17, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Ryan Harrow with 12 each and Nerlens Noel 10.

Noel added nine rebounds and seven blocked shots despite foul trouble limiting him to 25 minutes, 11 in the first half.

The game was a sellout - Auburn announced a crowd of 9,121 - and an "Orange Out," with most of the Tigers fans in attendance decked out in bright orange shirts.

And it was a blowout.

Auburn was "Just plan scared, point blank and simple," guard Frankie Sullivan said.

The Cats were unbothered.

"When we're playing away, we got to be able to take the crowd out of it, because the crowd can help the home team," Harrow said. I think that's what we did today. We had the lead and we kept the lead and then we got a big lead and they were out of it, basically."

That big lead hasn't been UK's forte.

The Cats came into the game outscoring opponents by an average of 15 points per game, but in conference play, both UK and its opponents had scored 206 points through three games.

Calipari said after Kentucky's 75-65 win against Tennessee that he couldn't imagine his team "being up 20 on anybody."

"Did I say that?" Calipari said after the Auburn game. "Wow."

He didn't have to imagine it on Saturday. The Cats built a 20-point cushion with 7:46 to play, going in front 63-43 on a Poythress putback of a Julius Mays miss, and they didn't let up.

"They play tough," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "They fed off our lack of confidence. You can easily give a team more confidence and aggression, and I thought we did that tonight."

As a result, the Cats gave the Tigers a whomping heading into a return trip to Alabama for a Tuesday tilt with the Crimson Tide.

"Right now we're just trying to enjoy this one, understand what we did today," Calipari said. "We made strides."


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