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February 8, 2013
Bright lights, bigger city
AUBURN -- Senior center Rob Chubb said Auburn was scared when it played Kentucky in front of the packed house and bright lights of Auburn Arena in late January.
The lights won't be any dimmer in 23,500-seat Rupp Arena Saturday afternoon.
"Rupp is huge," Chubb said. "It's always hard playing there because it's so loud you can't even hear calls."
Kentucky is 24-2 all-time against Auburn in games played in Lexington and have won 14 straight against the Tigers. But Chubb said if Auburn forces Kentucky's youth into pressure situations by playing the same type of defense it displayed against Alabama, the Tigers could break their losing streak against the Wildcats.
"If we have that same sort of intensity on the defensive end, we'll give them a struggle," Chubb said.
Coach Tony Barbee said his staff would use Auburn's defensive effort - holding Alabama to 37 points Wednesday night - as motivation rather than focusing on the 22-point loss against Kentucky earlier this season.
Still, the staff will alter its offensive approach by operating at a more deliberate pace.
"Our quick offense - which we weren't very effective in - led to a lot of easy, breakout points for them," Barbee said. "That's what they rely on. So we don't want to take as many quick shots, which led to their break-out in the second half. We were more patient and deliberate in the first half."
Several easy lay-ups and transition points were created by Kentucky forward Nerlens Noel's seven blocks.
"He did that in our first game and only played 19 minutes," Barbee said. "That shows you how good he is."
The 6-foot-10, flat-topped freshman, who has 102 blocks this season, thrives off weak-side help defense where he can peel off his man and alter anyone driving toward the rim.
Barbee has a solution.
"Not trying to get all the way to the rim against Noel is probably a good idea," Barbee said. "He's one of the elite shot-blockers in college basketball."
With Noel guarding the paint, teams are regulated to a steady stream of open jump shots and three-pointers. Barbee has said countless times that he is pleased with the looks his team gets during the course of games.
Players simply don't make them. The Tigers went 0-for-15 from three-point range in the earlier matchup against Kentucky.
"We're going to try to pull them away from the rim, open up some driving lanes and do some different things," Barbee said. "But at the end of the day, you have to make jump shots. Because that's what they're going to give up.
"If you don't make them, you don't win."
Kentucky offers an example of the system that Barbee is trying to instill at Auburn. Not an offensive or defensive scheme, but a unselfish mindset that Kentucky head coach John Calipari has successfully created at Kentucky.
Barbee said he's seen that unselfish nature appear in small doses, but not fully permeate the entire team.
"Even with the win (Wednesday) night, we've got guys who still don't get it and still don't understand it," he said. "They want to do someone else's job when that's not their role right now. When you don't have guys who buy into their job and just doing their role, then you're not as cohesive of a team. (Calipari) gets his guys to buy in to their role and not worrying about anyone else's role. And the impact of that is winning. That makes everybody look good. This team doesn't seem to get that right now."
Even if his team hasn't fully bought into what Barbee is selling, he said the team was more upbeat after the win over Alabama while preparing for Kentucky.
"That's what winning does," Barbee said.