Kentucky Defeats Auburn and
Extends SEC Win Streak To Three Games

Game Preview:

Last minute heroics by Patrick Sparks and Rajon Rondo pulled a Kentucky victory from the beak of defeat Saturday allowing UK to defeat the South Carolina Gamecocks 80-78 and avoid the distinction of the first UK team to ever lose their first three home SEC games of the season. For the game, UK scored points at a very high efficiency, 1.111 points per possession, and usually that level of offensive efficiency will deliver easy double digit victories for Kentucky teams. But this is not the usual UK team, and its defense continues to stumble. Saturday, the UK defense allowed USC to score over 1 point per possession as well, thus the barn burning finish.

Tonight, the Cats take on the Auburn Tigers in Auburn , Alabama . Auburn comes to this game 8-7 overall and 0-4 in the SEC. Compared to UK 's 302 ranking for pace, Auburn is a race horse, currently holding down the 188 th position in the pace rankings.

Just like all of UK 's recent games, this game figures to be very close and will likely be anyone's game going into the final 4 minutes of the game.

The Pros in Vegas say UK will return leave Auburn with a 4-point victory today, 66-62. My Net Game Efficiency analysis, adjusted for schedule strength suggests a UK win over Auburn , 66-64.

Auburn has home losses to Alabama and Arkansas , a road losses at Vanderbilt and Florida . Auburn 's most impressive wins thus far this season were over RPI 55 Winthrop by 2 and #56 Temple by 31. Auburn 's non-conference losses have come at the hands of #8 Pittsburgh by 37, #71 Colorado State by 10, and #72 Texas A&M by 5. Auburn 's most embarrassing loss thus far was to #49 Vanderbilt by 24.

The first four SEC matchups this year saw UK facing teams with better offenses and weaker defenses. UK won twice with that combination of talents. Tonight, however, the comparisons are different. These teams have posted almost identical defensive numbers [0.813 ppp v. 0.812 ppp], but UK has performed at a slightly higher offensive efficiency for the season than Auburn [0.862 ppp v 0.832 ppp].

Kentucky should extend its SEC winning streak tonight, but to do so UK must show up and play on both ends of the court. On offense, UK must score at least 0.85 points per possession and UK 's defense must hold the Bulldog offense to under 0.83 points per possession.

The First Half:

In the last game, both teams came out of the gate blazing. Tonight, both teams come out of the gate on a walk, a slow walk, and at the end of the first segment, the score was tied, 4-4, with Auburn leading the turnover race 4 2 in the first 4 minutes. The game has started on a pace that would lead to between 65 and 70 possessions for the game. During the second game segment, UK asserted itself with an offensive efficiency that produced 11 points in 8 possessions while limiting Auburn to 6 points in 7 possessions to move out to a 15-10 lead. However, Auburn continues to commit turnovers, now standing at 7 to just 2 for UK . Auburn has made over 71 percent of its shots in the early going, which points to continued defensive woes for the Cats.

In the third game segment, UK again outscored Auburn , this time by 2 points, 10-8 to extend the lead to 25-18. UK is hitting over 62% of its shots while Auburn has hit on over 58% of its shots. The turnover race is now 10-3, Auburn . At the under 4 Time out, UK extended its lead to a full 10 points, 34-24. Shooting percentages are now 56% and 47% for UK and Auburn respectively, and Auburn 's turnover derby slowed to only 1 in the last segment, for an 11-3 margin. The game pace is between 70 and 80 possessions for the game, and Auburn is controlling the boards 16-7 total and 8-3 on offensive rebounds. The teams went to the locker rooms with Kentucky holding an eleven point lead, 39-28.

During the first half, Kentucky led nearly the entire way, except for a couple of very early Auburn 2 point leads. In the first half today, UK won all of the 4 game segments and the. UK outscored Auburn by 4, 3, 3, and 1 point, and the fifth segment was a draw UK scored its 39 points on only 34 possessions [1.147 ppp] and Auburn scored its 28 points on only 38 possessions, 0.737 points per possession for the half.

Of UK's 34 first half possessions, 4 came by virtue of its offensive rebounding that produced 2 second chance points. Auburn earned 8 bonus possessions created by its offensive rebounding that produced 5-second chance points. UK had above average offensive efficiency of 1.194 ppp on its 30 first chance possessions and a weak 0.500 ppp for its 4-second chance possessions. Auburn had a 0.767 ppp on its 30 first chance possessions and 0.625 ppp on its 8-second chance possessions.

Auburn made only 6 of its 13 free throw attempts [46.2%] while UK converted only of its 6 attempts from the line [50.0%]. Auburn out rebounded UK in the first half, 18-12, and Auburn won the battle of the offensive boards, 8-4. The field goal shooting remained good again, and UK today, and Auburn shot the ball well. From inside the arc, Auburn also shot very well, 66.7% [8-12] but only 2-8 from beyond the arc [25%]. Kentucky was 9-17 [52.9%] inside the arc and a very strong 6-10 [60.0%] from outside the arc. The game pace is equivalent to 68 possessions for UK and 76 possessions for Auburn .


Today: the first team to score its 73 rd point will win this game. UK needs to score 34 more points in the second half to reach this level before Auburn can score 45 points in this race to 73 points. Kentucky scored its 71 st point of the game with about 2 minutes to play, but did not score again, and won 71-62.

The Second Half:

UK opened the second half scoring to move ahead by 16 points, 44-28, but Auburn then responded with a mini-run of its own to cut the lead back to 9 points at the first TV timeout with about 15 minutes to play. Following the timeout, Auburn extended its mini-run and cut the lead to 49-43 with about 12 ½ to play, at which point UK takes a time out to regroup. The pace continues to be in the 70-80 possession range, and UK efficiency has finally fallen below 1.0 points per possessions for the first time in two games. Auburn 's efficiency has climbed since halftime to about 0.78 ppp. The turnovers continue to haunt the Auburn Tigers, and now stand at 16-7.

The Outcome:

Auburn won the battle of the boards for the game, 37-36, and Auburn won the battle of the offensive boards, 13-12. . Auburn grabbed a high 37.8% of its misses as offensive rebounds while UK grabbed a below average 36.1% of its misses. UK scored 71 points on its 79 possessions [0.899 ppp] while Auburn scored its 62 points using a total of 79 possessions [0.785 ppp]. Kentucky committed 13 turnovers to Auburn 's 17 for the game.

Kentucky had 66 first chance possessions in which they scored 62 points, 0.939 ppp while they scored 9 points on their 13-second chance possessions, 0.692 ppp. Auburn had 65 first chance possessions on which they scored 48 points, 0.754 ppp while they scored 13 second chance points on their 14 second chance possessions, 0.929 ppp.

Tonight UK shot the ball poorly from the field for the game. From the field, UK shot 50.0% [15-30] inside the arc, and an average 7-21 from beyond the arc [33.3%] for a combined shooting percentage of 43.1%. The Free throw shooting was about average in terms of percentage but the number of opportunities was outstanding, 20-30 [66.7%]. Auburn also shot poorly from the field today. From inside the arc, USC hit 51.7% [15-29] and from long range, Auburn hit 28.6% [6-21]. Auburn 's free throw shooting was also poor, 14-23 [58.3%]. Kentucky committed one turnover for every 6.1 possessions while forcing a turnover in every 4.6 possessions. Last year, in comparison, these turnover rates were 6.2 and 4.6 respectively for the season.

I predicted a Kentucky victory over Auburn today, 66-64. The predicted v. actual offensive efficiencies were 0.839 and 0.899 ppp respectively, and the predicted v. actual defensive efficiencies were 0.829 and 0.785 ppp respectively.

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Copyright 2006 Richard Cheeks
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