The slide continues for struggling Kentucky.
The Wildcats (17-9, 6-7 Southeastern Conference) suffered their fourth consecutive loss with a 76-66 loss to No. 10 Auburn Wednesday night. Kentucky hasn’t won a game this month and the team’s last victory was an 83-81 triumph over Vanderbilt in overtime on Jan. 30 in Lexington.
“The league is not what it has been, and we don’t have any room for error,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “As a coach I just have to keep them going and just get to work and say, ‘How do we get better, and what do we do to try and turn this around?’ Good news is, I have done this for 30 years, and I haven’t had one of these in a while. It is probably good for the soul. I wish it was good for someone else’s soul and not mine.”
Auburn (23-3, 11-2), which has defeated Kentucky just three times in the past 26 games, won back-to-back games at home over the Wildcats for the first time since the 1989-90 seasons. The Tigers snapped an 18-game losing streak to Kentucky with a 75-70 victory two years ago at Auburn Arena.
One of the top 3-point shooting teams in the conference, Auburn missed its first nine shots from long range. Despite the slow start, the Tigers connected two straight threes during a 12-2 run for a 16-12 lead. Auburn made just one of their first 16 field goals, but eventually overcame the early struggles and connected on six of their last eight treys of the opening half for a 39-33 halftime lead.
The Wildcats kept things close in the second half, but missed six of their last seven shots and didn’t make a field goal run the final five minutes, allowing the Tigers to escape with a double-digit victory.
Forward Kevin Knox paced Kentucky with 19 points, scoring 12 of those in the first half. Knox made all of the team’s three shots from long range. PJ Washington followed Knox with 13 points.
Auburn guard and leading scorer Bryce Brown returned to the starting lineup after sitting out the Tigers’ 78-61 win over Georgia because of a shoulder injury. Brown, who leads the SEC in made 3-pointers, finished with 18 points, tying teammate Jared Harper for team-high scoring honors. Anfernee McLemore added 13 points and Mustapha Heron tallied 11 for the Tigers.
Calipari hopes the Cats can end the skid against Alabama Saturday.
“I really believe if we win a game, then we will get going,” he said. “I have had teams in this kind of mode that we are in, but the league was different. We could go get a league game somewhere, and we knew, ‘okay, finally.’ There is none here. You better come and play. The other thing is everyone gives us their best shot. There is no one that is going to not play against Kentucky, especially if they have a chance to beat you for the first time in six years.”
Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee made his return to Auburn Arena for the first time since he was fired following a four-year stint with the Tigers following the 2013-14 season. Barbee compiled a 49-75 record. Barbee was on a recruiting trip during Kentucky’s last visit to Auburn two years ago.
Gametracker: Alabama at Kentucky, 2 p.m., Saturday. TV/: CBS
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.