It's been a season of one disappointment after another for Kentucky, and another historic streak is on the line Saturday, when the Wildcats play host to Auburn at Rupp Arena on CBS. The Tigers have lost 18 straight against UK in Lexington, Kentucky, but are entering this meeting as underdogs while the Wildcats continue to struggle through one of the worst seasons in program history.
If Auburn is going to get its first win in Lexington since the 1987-88 season, it will need Sharife Cooper to prove he is the best freshman on the court. As the No. 24 overall player in the Class of 2020, according to the 247Sports Composite, he was ranked behind Kentucky's Terrence Clarke and Brandon Boston Jr. But Cooper has arguably been the SEC's best freshman since receiving clearance to play in January.
Kentucky's six-man freshman class ranked No. 1 nationally, but it has failed to deliver for coach John Calipari, who is drawing the ire of UK's passionate fan base. This UK team has already lost more games than any other during the Calipari era in Lexington, and there's enough time left in the season for these Wildcats to challenge the 1988-89 team, which lost 19 games, for the most losses in program history.
Auburn is going through a self-imposed postseason ban and doesn't have a whole lot to play for as the season winds down. But ending a historic losing streak at Kentucky would surely bring a measure of meaning to an otherwise forgettable campaign in the Bruce Pearl era on The Plains.
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- When: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
- Where: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky
- TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
- OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Auburn: At 11-10 (5-7 SEC) overall, this has been a disappointing season by the standards Pearl has built for a previously dormant program. But Cooper has injected a heavy dose of entertainment into an otherwise forgettable campaign. The 6-foot freshman guard is averaging 20.2 points and 8.7 assists per game in the 10 contests he's played and has reached double-figures in every game he's played. Cooper's shooting percentage of just 39.6% from the field and just 24.4% from 3-point range are not great, but his ability to reach the free-throw line have made him one of the most effective players in the league. Cooper is averaging 9.4 free-throw attempts per game and is hitting 81.9% of them.
Kentucky: Clarke was ranked as the No. 8 overall player in the class but has not played since Dec. 26 and is likely to miss the rest of the season because of an ankle injury, Calipari revealed this week. But Clarke's absence is just the beginning of Kentucky's woes, which are largely attribute to poor offensive play. Though the Wildcats have improved their 3-point shooting metrics some during league play, they still rank 10th in the SEC in made 3-pointers per game during conference play and have struggled to make up for the poor outside shooting elsewhere. After starting 3-0 in SEC games, Kentucky has lost seven of its last eight games and lost all hope of rebounding for NCAA Tournament consideration. At this point, protecting a 46-2 all-time record at home against Auburn on Saturday would be huge relief for this team.
Game prediction, pick
The fact that Kentucky is favored in this game is a sign that oddsmakers still respect the history of this series and Kentucky's supposed home-court advantage. But it should be obvious by now that Rupp Arena with a dramatically reduced capacity is not that intimidating of a place to be play for opposing teams. The Wildcats have lost five games at home already this season, and Auburn is more than capable of being the sixth team to win on the road at UK this year. Prediction: Auburn 78, Kentucky 74
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