With three difficult games left on the schedule, and a team that was narrowly avoiding the bubble, Auburn (19-10, 9-7 SEC) needed to build off of the momentum from the Ole Miss win and compete in Rupp Arena.

Instead, what was a close game quickly turned into complete domination as the Tigers fell to the Wildcats (20-9, 11-5 SEC) 86-54. 

“Got beat in every facet of the game, weren’t competitive,” said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “Very very poor performance, very poor effort and I apologize to our fans for such a let down.”

Auburn lost every single statistical category as Kentucky secured its biggest win of the season. 

The first 15 minutes of the game actually went well for the Tigers, as Johni Broome scored nine of the team’s first 11 and Auburn even held a slim 25-24 lead over Kentucky. Then the game fell apart. Kentucky ended the half on a 16–4 run, and that extended even further as Auburn scored just five points in the first six minutes of second half action.

Kentucky finished the game 62-29 and the Wildcats have the trio of Oscar Tshiebwe, Antonio Reeves and Cason Wallace to thank for it. Led by Tshiebwe, the trio scored 62 of the Wildcats 86 points, and each player shot 50% or higher from the field. 

“They’ve got great players at every position, they’ve got pros at every position,” Pearl said. “They’re really just superior.”

Tshiebwe finished with 22, but the senior also scored his 44th double-double with 17 rebounds as Kentucky just dominated Auburn on the boards. The Wildcast held a 41-23 advantage overall, including 26-11 on defensive rebounds. 

“Just the physicality of Kentucky, just look at the rebounds we got dominated on the boards,” Pearl said. “Tshiebwe and Toppin physically had their way with us.”

Jacob Toppin finished the game with 13 points on 6-of-11 from the field, along with 12 boards.

While Auburn was getting dominated on the boards, Johni Broome went cold and finished with just 12 points and on rebound in the contest. After starting 3-of-3 from the floor, Broome shot just 1-of-7 the rest of the way. The only other player for Auburn in double figures was Jaylin Williams with 13, but he shot just 5-of-14 from the floor in the loss. Williams was once again Auburn’s best threat from beyond the arc, hitting 3-of-7 from downtown. 

“You’ve got to be able to pass the ball better and we did not,” Pearl said when asked about Broome’s issues following his strong start.

He even touched on Auburn’s one assist in the first half. The Tigers finished the game with just four assists, far behind Kentucky’s 16. 

Wendell Green Jr. ran the offense for most of the contest, and the junior point guard struggled again in the road environment, hitting just three of his 12 shots while adding two assists.

“We go as Wendell goes, and Wendell struggled, he obviously did not have a lot of help,” Pearl said. “It really hurt our NCAA hopes.”

This was Auburn’s worst loss since 2016 and nearly the worst loss of the Bruce Pearl-era before an 8-0 run against Kentucky’s relievers saved the Tigers from the wrong kind of history. 

Auburn will need to regroup, but a tough environment in Rupp Arena will be followed by an equally tough environment in Coleman Coliseum. Every game counts as the Tigers look to avoid the sweep and take down No. 2 Alabama (25-4, 15-1), with the game scheduled to tip off on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CST, to be broadcast on ESPN2.

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