Auburn Tigers
Kentucky-Auburn Preview
Auburn Tigers

Kentucky-Auburn Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 9:53 p.m. ET

Kentucky coach John Calipari has become a bit perplexed as to why his team can't seem to put a full 40 minutes of solid basketball together.

That hasn't been much of an issue when the 14th-ranked Wildcats have faced Auburn over the past 16 years.

Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee hope to lead a consistent effort Saturday when visiting Kentucky looks to extend the SEC's longest active winning streak against a single opponent.

The Wildcats (13-3, 3-1) have alternated between impressive and puzzling performances over the past three weeks. After allowing host LSU to shoot 49.2 percent in an 85-67 loss Jan. 5, they held Alabama to 34.6 percent in last Saturday's 77-61 road win.


Kentucky held Mississippi State to 37 points in the first 21:34 on Tuesday before letting the Bulldogs match that total over the final 9:26. The squad allowed an uncharacteristic 52.9 field-goal percentage - its highest in almost two years - in an 80-74 home win.

"I'm not sure (what's wrong), but we're just coming prepared every day ready to work," Poythress told the team's official website. "Just trying to play as well as we can."

The senior forward has been a model for those up-and-down results. He finished with four points against LSU, scored a career-high 25 at Alabama and had six Tuesday.

Lee totaled 21 points and 19 rebounds against Mississippi on Jan. 2 and Alabama but scored a combined two while pulling down 11 boards versus LSU and Mississippi State.

Tyler Ulis had eight points against Alabama before bouncing back with 21 on Tuesday. Jamal Murray has been the most steady with three straight 20-point performances.

"The whole thing is wanting, relishing in the responsibility," Calipari said. "I relish that responsibility of having to come every day and do what I do. But it's hard. It's not easy."

Calipari is warning his team that extending an 18-game winning streak in this series won't be easy at Auburn Arena, even though the Tigers (7-8, 1-3) have suffered three straight double-digit defeats since beating Tennessee in their conference opener.

Kentucky will have to keep an eye on Kareem Canty, who finished with 16 points in Tuesday's 75-57 loss at Vanderbilt. The junior guard is 1 for 11 from 3-point range in his last two games but averaged 20.9 points and made 43.7 percent from 3 in his prior eight.

"(Canty), this kid, he's just letting it go, and if he has a big night, we'll probably say, 'Who's next on the schedule?'" Calipari said. "But they're going to shoot balls and they play loose. When you're at home – and you know they're ready for us. It's just how it is."

Auburn, though, is struggling offensively with a combined 34.7 field-goal percentage while shooting 11 for 45 (24.4 percent) from beyond the arc in its last two.

Tyler Harris hopes to regroup after finishing with eight points on 4-of-13 shooting Tuesday. He averaged 20.7 points and shot 59.5 percent in his previous three.

The Tigers, who haven't beaten the Wildcats since January 2000, will be short-handed as guards T.J. Dunans (knee) and Tahj Shamsid-Deen (shoulder) are likely out for the season.

"We said we can't focus on winning right now," coach Bruce Pearl said on the Auburn radio broadcast. "Let's focus on playing hard. ... Our roster is, obviously, challenged."

Kentucky's Dominique Hawkins (ankle) is day to day after missing the last three games.


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