No. 2 Auburn will put its 14-game winning streak on the line Saturday when it hosts No. 12 Kentucky in a clash featuring the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference.
Kentucky (15-3, 5-1 SEC) is riding a streak of its own, having won four straight. Meanwhile, Auburn (17-1, 6-0) hasn't lost since November, when it fell to then-No. 22 UConn in double-overtime in the Bahamas. Saturday will bring a signature win for one of these teams.
"We've got to step up in a huge way for Kentucky," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "I think it's one of the best teams John (Calipari) has had in years. It'll be a clash of the titans, that's for sure."
The Tigers are coming off a home win over rival Georgia, topping the Bulldogs 83-60 on Wednesday. Six Tigers scored in double digits. Walker Kessler led the team with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and added six rebounds and six blocks.
Pearl was particularly impressed by the play of Wendell Green Jr., who racked up 12 points and 11 assists for his second double-double of the season.
"Wendell did such a special job getting the ball to the right people at the right time," Pearl said. "Wendell was having fun out there, which I love to see."
Added Green: "Shoutout to my teammates. They finished around the rim; they hit open shots. Assists are a two-way street. I can't do it without my teammates."
Green has started in just three games this season, but he leads Auburn with 5.1 assists per game. Jabari Smith remains the team's top scorer, averaging 15.8 points. Kessler patrols the paint, leading the team in rebounds (7.4) and blocks (4.2) while also making 60.8 percent of his shots.
The Wildcats are coming off a 64-58 victory ednesday at Texas AM, despite shooting a season-low 36.2 percent.
"I love those games, absolutely love them," Calipari said. "That means you know you had to fight, and you had to guard, and you had to rebound -- or you had no chance of winning."
Kentucky made up for its shooting woes by winning the rebounding battle 43-40 and scoring 18 second-chance points. The Wildcats also got to the foul line 26 times and knocked down 18.
Just two Wildcats -- Sahvir Wheeler (12) and Davion Mintz (10) -- scored in double digits. Oscar Tshiebwe had a team-high 14 rebounds.
"We learned a lot about ourselves, and I'm just proud of this team that we stuck together because we've struggled a lot in the last four minutes," Mintz said. "Just to know that we finally got one under our belts in crunch time, that's big for our confidence going forward."
Tshiebwe continues to lead Kentucky, averaging 16.1 points and 14.8 boards. Despite being held to just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting against Texas AM, TyTy Washington Jr. is still Kentucky's second-leading scorer, averaging 14.2 points.
Saturday marks the only regular-season meeting between Kentucky and Auburn this year. The Wildcats own an overwhelming 92-21 advantage in the series.
--Field Level Media