Lexington, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Closing in on a perfect regular season, the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats continue their run through the SEC, as they play host to the Auburn Tigers on Saturday evening at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky is off to the best start in school history at 26-0. John Calipari's Wildcats are the only unbeaten team in the nation and are closing in on the SEC title, as their 13-0 league mark is currently three games better than second-place Arkansas (10-3) with five games to play. The Wildcats kept their win streak going this week with a 66-48 road win at Tennessee.
Bruce Pearl's first season at Auburn has come with more questions than answers at this point. The team is currently two games under .500 overall at 12-14, thanks in large part to a mere 4-9 mark in the SEC. The Tigers have dropped three of their last four games, including Tuesday's 79-68 loss to archrival Alabama. Auburn is a mere 2-7 in road games this season.
Kentucky holds a huge 89-17 lead in the all-time series with Auburn. The Wildcats have won 16 straight meetings, with Auburn's last victory in this series coming back in 2000. The Wildcats have won 25 of the 27 meetings with Auburn at Rupp Arena.
The Tigers got great production from guards Antoine Mason and KT Harrell, but their combined 45 points weren't enough to propel Auburn to victory over the Crimson Tide this week. Mason was 9-of-13 from the floor and tallied a game- high 24 points in the loss, while Harrell poured in 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Cinmeon Bowers also finished in double figures in the loss, netting 14 points for Auburn, which shot a mere .393 from the floor overall.
Offensive efficiency has been a problem for Auburn all season long. The Tigers are netting a decent 68.7 ppg this year, but it comes on a pedestrian .410 shooting. Compounding the problem is the fact that opponents are netting over 70 points on a healthy .457 shooting. Harrell headlines the play for Auburn at the offensive end, pacing the SEC in scoring at 17.9 ppg, thanks in large part to his .451 effort from behind the arc (73-of-162). Mason is ninth in the conference in scoring at 14.9 ppg, while Bowers ranks 14th with 13.1 ppg. The 6-7, 278-pound Bowers leads the entire conference in rebounding, grabbing 10.7 caroms per contest.
The Wildcats put on another defensive clinic in the easy win at Tennessee this week. Kentucky held the Volunteers to just 48 points on .375 shooting, while forcing 15 turnovers. Devin Booker led the way offensively for Kentucky with 18 points. Andrew Harrison added 14 points to the cause, while Trey Lyles chipped in with 10.
Defense is the name of the game in Lexington this season. Kentucky ranks second in the nation in scoring defense (51.7 ppg) and blocked shots (182 - 7.0 bpg), while leading the nation in field-goal percentage defense (.339) and scoring margin (+21.7). Booker has taken over the scoring lead for Kentucky despite not starting a single game. The 6-6 freshman is netting 11.0 ppg and is shooting .450 from 3-point range (45-of-100). Aaron Harrison is also in double figures at 10.8 ppg, while Willie Cauley-Stein (9.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Karl-Anthony Towns (8.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) are just under that mark. Cauley-Stein and Towns are a dominant duo around the rim, combining for 100 of the team's blocks this season.