Last time the Wildcats came to The Plains, Auburn’s defense helped the team escape with a win despite a horrid shooting performance.
This matchup is particularly more interesting because of former 5-star Auburn commit EJ Montgomery, who is now a member of the Wildcats after flipping to Kentucky following the scandal surrounding Auburn assistant Chuck Persons.
With that in mind, here are some more players to watch and keys to victory for Saturday's top-15 contest.
Players to watch
Ashton Hagans (Kentucky):
Ashton Hagans has emerged as Kentucky’s go to player to run the offense and the added responsibilities has only made the freshman shine.
In SEC play, Hagans is averaging 17 points, 4.75 assists and 3.75 steals a game. Hagans has established himself as the team’s lockdown defender, which could give the Tigers fits as they have been turnover prone at times this season.
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Hagans will likely be matched up against Auburn leading scorer Bryce Brown or fellow point guard Jared Harper. It has been hard for Auburn to have success offensively when either of those two are having off nights.
Whether Hagans can shut down whoever he is matched up against is something to watch our for.
Keldon Johnson (Kentucky):
Kentucky’s leading scorer this season has been in a slight slump, seeing his scoring average drop in five straight games. The slump hit its peak with a zero-point, 0-for-6 shooting performance against Georgia on Tuesday.
Regardless of the slump. Johnson is a dangerous weapon for the Wildcats, scoring in double digits in all but three games this season — two of those coming in the past three games.
If Johnson bounces back from his shooting slump, that could be bad new for the Tigers if they want to secure another home SEC victory.
PJ Washington (Kentucky):
PJ Washington leads the Wildcats in rebounds this season but is undersized at only 6-foot-8. His size could be used against him against Auburn’s big men on defense, but it could also be a strength that could lead to Washington having a big game Saturday.
Washington has successfully done a good job at expanding his range from last season in hopes to help stretch the floor. Last season, Washington shot 23 percent from 3 but has improved drastically, hitting 37 percent so far this season.
Chuma Okeke (Auburn):
Chuma Okeke burst onto the scene this season with a 20-point performance and a 19-point double-double to open up the season. Since then, Okeke stopped playing aggressive and his play has shown with his scoring average dropping below 10 points a game for the first time all season.
Okeke is capable of being a high-volume scorer down low and from outside, and he will have the opportunity Saturday against Kentucky with a lot of its defensive prowess coming from the backcourt.
Keys to victory
It is easy to say that the Tigers need to make shots to win the game, but that's exactly what they need to do. The Tigers can’t afford to have an off night against a Kentucky team that has proven they defeat SEC competition in a low-scoring defensive battle.
Auburn’s offense runs through Jared Harper, and if Kentucky can force him to make mistakes and have a bad night offensively, the Wildcats can get a top-15 win on the road.
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