Tigers Need Dose Of Confidence As UK Visits

The Auburn basketball team looks to snap a two-game losing streak, but will have to do it vs. second-ranked Kentucky.

Auburn, Ala.--After two straight blowout losses to Florida State and Vanderbilt, Auburn men's basketball head coach Tony Barbee is searching for answers to fix his team's subpar performances on the court as the Tigers enter the meat of their SEC schedule.

"Our confidence is a little shaken so we've got to get back to playing at high level and playing with some confidence," Barbee said. "We just try to stay positive and make sure the guys understand it's just one game at a time."

Unfortunately for the Tigers (10–5, 0–1), they will have to try to shake out of their funk Wednesday against second-ranked Kentucky, which is coming off a 79–64 win over South Carolina in the SEC opener for both teams. The Wildcats (15–1, 1–0) have won seven straight since being edged by a point on the road against Indiana and for the season are outscoring their opponents by nearly 22 points a game.

The difficult challenge confronting the Tigers is not lost on Barbee, who said he is not surprised with how successful the Wildcats have been this season under his former coach and mentor, head coach John Calipari.

"(Calipari's) done with this team what he's done with all his teams," Barbee said. "He gets them to play as hard as any team in the country, and he gets them to play as unselfish as any team in the country. And when you have the kind of talent playing that way, it makes it hard."

"It impresses me every year because it's one of the two hardest things to get your team to do—play extremely hard, as hard as they can possibly play, and extremely unselfish," Barbee added. "He can just really tell the guys to play it for the name on the front of the jersey and not the name on the back of the jersey."

Barbee is especially impressed with and concerned by the play of 6-foot-10, 220-pound Kentucky true freshman Anthony Davis, who enters the game against Auburn with five straight double-doubles. The power forward already has 74 blocks on the season and is leading the SEC with 4.5 blocks per game.

"When you have a guy like Davis in the paint, who blocks shots like he does, you can be a little more aggressive defensively, and that's what (Calipari)'s doing," said Barbee, who added that it "really puts pressure on the other team's guards and forwards to make plays."

"Their defense is as good as it's always been and it's just got that much better with Davis at the rim," noted the head coach.

Kentucky star Doron Lamb shoots a jump shot for the Wildcats.

In addition to facing the challenges posed by Davis and Wildcats' defense, the Tigers will also have their hands full trying to stop the Wildcats' explosive offense, which features six players averaging more than 10 points a game, including 14.6 from 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Doron Lamb.

If the Tigers are to pull the upset, they'll likely have to double the 35 points they managed against Vanderbilt as Kentucky is 61–1 under Calipari when the opponent scores 67 or fewer points a game.

"In the last two games, we've gotten as good looks as we've had all year long, and we're not sticking them in the rim," said Barbee of his team's shooting woes. "And that can deflate you, but it can't deflate you on the defensive end of the floor, and that's happened."

"So we're going to continue to do what we do," he added. "When we get some good looks, we've just got to have guys step up and knock them down."

On a brighter note, Auburn will be playing in the friendly confines of the Auburn Arena, where the Tigers are undefeated this season with a 9–0 record. The game is set to tip off Wednesday at 7 p.m. CST and will be televised by the SEC Network.


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