- Sunday, January 30 1994 -
Kentucky - 91 (Head Coach: Rick Pitino) - [Ranked 9th by AP]
Auburn - 74 (Head Coach: Tommy Joe Eagles) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 40, Auburn 40
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|South Carolina 79 - 67|||||Alabama 82 - 67|
Game Writeup - Courtesy of Dr. Jeffrey Neil Burch; Dr. J's UK Newsletter, Vol. 3 No. 22. (All Rights Reserved)
Wildcats Waste a Wing of Weary War Eagles:
In an arena nearly filled with Kentucky blue [JNB note - I was there, courtesy of Jim Weeks of Intergraph in Huntsville. Thanks, Jim!] Kentucky cruised to a relatively easy 91-74 win over the hapless Auburn Tigers.
"Relatively" is the key word here because Auburn played the Cats straight up in the first half. The Tigers went 6-8 from 3 point range, and caused a number of turnovers and miscues for the Cats in the first 20 minutes. They led by as many as 6 points in the first half (at 18-12 and a few other times), but couldn't hold it as the Wildcats began a slow but steady climb back into the game. Kentucky didn't get its first lead until about 8.5 minutes left in the first half, and then the lead switched between both schools for several minutes. Auburn gained the upper hand in the last 2 minutes, but Kentucky not only came back, they even had chances on their last two possessions to take the lead. They couldn't. Poor shot selection plagued the Cats, particularly Rodrick Rhodes' 3 point shooting (Rodrick nevertheless had 13 first half points). Jared Prickett had numerous unnecessary turnovers, particularly on walks when he was driving to the basket. Andre Riddick started out like a house afire, scoring 12 in the first half before finishing with 16.
The second stanza was almost all Kentucky. UK applied a truly smothering press, and Auburn just couldn't handle it. An already shallow team became even shallower due to illness of some of the Tigers this week, and the fact that one of the Auburn players (Weems) cut his hand in a hunting accident last week and was out. The War Eagles were obviously fatigued in the second half, and Kentucky's offense returned to decent form. The Cats, who had shot only about 43% in field goals in the first half, hit a really staggering 76% after the intermission. Anthony Epps continues to increase his playing time in relief of Ford, and although Anthony didn't score, he looks more and more comfortable directing this team. UK had a 21-5 spurt early in the second half, and the outcome was never in doubt.
Defensively, the Cats lit it up as well - Wesley Person, Auburn's leading scorer at over 26 ppg, was held without a point in the second half, finishing with 16 (in fairness to him, it must be acknowledged that Wesley had a stomach virus all week). The great play of sophomore Tony Delk must be mentioned - he hit several big 3 pointers and led the team with 25 points overall. UK's passing was much crisper in the second half - many pretty assists which resulted in baskets for Rhodes and Riddick (particularly his nice dunks!). Riddick tied his career high of 16 points in this game.
Jeff Sheppard's home town, Peachtree City, sent a contingent of fans to watch the game, and although Sheppard didn't play much, he did get one field goal. Jeff Brassow also saw less time than usual, after his great performance against South Carolina, but perhaps Pitino wanted to give him extra healing time since the other players were doing well enough. Aaron Swinson of Auburn was the game high scorer with 32 point, 23 in the second half. Auburn played only 7 men, and only 4 of them scored. Swinson's 32 points were a career high, and he scored all but 2 of Auburn's baskets in the second half.
After the game, Coach Pitino said he told his troops at halftime not to worry about the fact that the game was tied, but to continue to press the Auburn players into committing turnovers, which was exactly what happened. He also made an appeal to Auburn to retain beleaguered coach Tommy Joe Eagles who many feel will not be back next season. [JNB note - it was rumored that Auburn AD Mike Lude approached the UK bench after the game, contract in hand, to try to sign Billy Donovan to be their next coach, but I didn't see any such thing. :-)]
SEC officiating continues to be pretty loose. Travis Ford was repeatedly bumped and pushed by the Auburn guards, yet it wasn't until the second half that any calls were made for it. Similarly, Andre Riddick and Jared Prickett traveled on a couple of occasions which somehow weren't caught by the refs (after the game had already been put out of reach, fortunately). Perhaps SEC refs should be required in the future to be accompanied by seeing eye dogs! :-)