Ahead of No. 17 Auburn and No. 13 Kentucky's marquee matchup this Saturday, The Auburn Plainsman reached out to Kentucky Kernel sports editor Erika Bonner for a Q&A previewing the conference clash. Here’s what she had to say about the Wildcats this season.
Q: Kentucky has already played in some tough road environments; how do you think they’ll handle the crowd this weekend?
A: If they hadn't already played at places like Arkansas and Texas Tech where the arenas were dang near exploding, I'd say they'd probably get to Auburn Saturday and play pretty rattled. But those two games, both in hostile environments, were pretty good tests for what they might face against the Tigers. That being said though, with College GameDay being there and just the simple fact that it's a big-time SEC game, nerves and jitters still might become a factor for the Cats.
Q: How does the Kentucky coaching staff and players see this game? Do they see it as one of their bigger games or just another SEC game?
A: On paper, with this game being a No. 13 vs. a No. 17 matchup, I think Kentucky knows it's a big one. Having lost to South Carolina in possibly the Cats' worst performance of the season and Auburn with its two conference losses, it's hard to imagine either team would look at it as just another SEC game. Although Coach Cal does always say, "It's just the next game for us. Unless we win, then it's a big one."
Q: Who is a player for Kentucky that Auburn fans should know before Saturday?
A: I'd have to say Nick Richards. He's the current SEC co-Player of the Week after his dominating 25-point, 14-rebound, 4-block performance against Texas Tech and has blossomed into a completely different player than he's been in years past. He's arguably Kentucky's most important player right now-- the Cats are 14-1 this season when he scores in double figures, 8-0 when he gets double-digit rebounds and 6-1 when he blocks at least four shots.
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Q: Last season, it was a close game in Auburn Arena with Auburn falling at the buzzer. What’s your prediction for this Saturday?
A: My mid-season prediction was that Kentucky would end up 25-6 heading into the SEC Tournament. The Cats are 15-4 right now, so if I'm sticking to that, I'm going to say this game at Auburn will be one of those two losses. 77-74, Tigers take the win.
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