On Saturday, Auburn travels to Lexington, Kentucky, looking to complete a season sweep of the Wildcats for the first time in school history.
“I think typically people judge you on how you do in the best competitions against the best teams in your schedule and your rivals,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “Our guys will know the history that’s available to them.”
Auburn and Kentucky will meet for the 118th time on Saturday. In the series history, Kentucky has won 95 times and Auburn has taken 22. The most recent meeting between the programs was earlier this season when Auburn beat Kentucky at Auburn Arena 66-59.
However, when traveling to Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, the fates do not often fare on the Tigers' side. In the entire history of Auburn basketball, the Tigers have only won twice at Kentucky, with one win in Rupp in 1983 and one in 1988.
“They’ve got a great home-court advantage,” Pearl said. “Playing in that building is an honor. It just is. That’s one of the great houses in basketball, right there with the Boston Garden. So the way I look at it for our guys is an opportunity. You’re going to remember how you did at Rupp, five, 10 years, 50 years from now.”
In recent history, Auburn has won five of the last nine contests with Kentucky, notably beating the Wildcats in the Elite Eight of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Following the victory Auburn had over Kentucky this season, Auburn has defeated Kentucky in four consecutive seasons for only the second time in school history, first accomplishing the feat between 1987-1990.
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“There are no excuses here. We take advantage of the opportunities,” Pearl said. “We play Kentucky on CBS. CBS put this game on a Saturday. There are a lot of other good SEC games, but they wanted Auburn vs. Kentucky, alright can we take advantage of it.”
Both Kentucky and Auburn are heavily laden with freshman talent. Auburn boasts the youngest team in the country and will heavily depend on young talent to make history at Kentucky.
Freshman guard Sharife Cooper is fourth in the nation among freshmen in assists and is top in the country with 8.7 assists per game.
Sophomore Jaylin Williams received high praise on Friday from his coach about his development in his second year. Williams is averaging 10.9 points, five blocks and two assists per game.
“Offensively, he is fun to have out there on the floor because he can shoot, he can pass, he can handle, he's got high IQ and is not afraid of the moment,” Pearl said. “He's a mismatch. He's got a chance to be a real problem, a mismatch.”
Auburn may not be playing to make history in the SEC or NCAA tournament this year, but the Tigers have a chance to go down in Auburn history on Saturday in Lexington.
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