Wallace, Tigers Preparing For No. 2 Wildcats

Point guard Josh Wallace and Coach Tony Barbee talk about Auburn's home test visit the nation's second ranked team.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's smallest player says he is looking forward to the big challenge of playing the No. 2 ranked college basketball team in the country as the Tigers prepare to take on the Kentucky Wildcats.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday from the Auburn Arena where the 15-1 Wildcats will be playing for the first time. Auburn, which is 10-5 overall and 0-1 in the SEC, will try to bounce back from lopsided losses suffered at FSU and Vanderbilt the past two games.

"You are always going to get up for Kentucky when they come to town so I am looking forward to it," says Auburn junior guard Josh Wallace.

Wallace says he has watched the Wildcats play multiple times on TV this season. "Most people watch them just to watch. I am watching tendencies and stuff like that."

The Tigers lost their SEC opener in Nashville 65-35 to Vanderbilt on Saturday. It was the lowest point total for the Tigers since scoring 35 points in a loss at Kentucky in January 1951.

"I believe we are getting good shots on offense," Wallace says. "We just have to step up and knock them down. Coach is drawing up plays and we are getting layups and open threes.

"Our defense is really killing us," the walk-on adds. "We really have to step it up on that side of the floor...We just have to learn to play every second, every possession."

Josh Wallace

Wallace, who is liberally listed as standing five feet, 10 inches tall on the official roster, will likely be matched up against Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague, an impressive six-foot-two freshman who is averaging 10.8 points and 4.5 assists per game.

"What I say about small guards is they have got to be a pest for the other team," Auburn coach Tony Barbee says. "He has really focused in on doing that the last couple of games."

Barbee is looking for Wallace, who is averaging 3.1 points and 1.7 assists as a reserve, to become more productive when the Tigers have the ball.

"It is hard for him to affect the game offensively because he doesn't score the ball well, but what he can do defensively is pester the other team and then use his speed on the offensive end of the floor, and his ability to get into the paint, to get other guys shots and that is what he hasn't been doing," Barbee says.

Kentucky's only loss this season was at Indiana. The Wildcats opened SEC play with a 79-64 home victory over South Carolina on Saturday.

The Wildcats feature six players who are averaging more than 10 points per game led by 6-10, 220 freshman Anthony Davis, who is averaging 12.7 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per game.

Anthony Davis rejects a shot and returns it to the sender.

The leading scorer is 6-4 sophomore guard Doron Lamb, who is averaging 14.6 points per game.

Terrence Jones, a 6-9, 252 sophomore who scored 35 points vs. Auburn last year, is averaging 11.8 points and 6.3 rebounds for the Wildcats.

A 6-7, 232 freshman forward, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is averaging 13.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

Darius Miller, a 6-8, 235 senior, is averaging 10.2 points and 3.5 rebounds.

Asked if this is Coach John Calipari's best team, Barbee says, "He has a lot of great teams and this is just another one. It doesn't surprise you what he does. He gets very talented guys to play harder than anybody else on the floor, and gets them to play for each other. He gets them to play very unselfishly. Those are the two hardest things to do as a coach."

"I think they compare favorably to the last team we played," Barbee adds. "I said coming into the year I thought Vanderbilt was the best in the league because they had just as much talent as anybody plus that talent was seniors. That is what I thought made them the best team in the league.

"Kentucky has just as much talent, if not more. You can put Florida up there. There are a couple of other schools you could put up there, but there is no question it is going to be a difficult challenge."

Senior forward Kenny Gabriel leads the Tigers in scoring at 11.9 points per game and rebounding with 7.8 per contest. Junior guard Frankie Sullivan is averaging 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds.

"I like the fact that we are back at home," says Barbee, whose team is 9-0 this season at Auburn Arena. "It is part of growing up as a program learning how to win on the road against top-level teams in the country and in our conference. We are not there yet.

"The good thing is we do play with confidence like all teams play with confidence at home," the coach says. "I expect us to come out and play a good game. The results, who knows. The fact that we are back at home will give us a boost of energy. It is going to be a great crowd. It is going to be a great environment--I know that and so do the guys so we are going to come out and fight."

Barbee has been critical of his team's play, particularly on defense, but says he is going to be supportive. "I have to continue to stay positive with this group," he points out. "This is a group that can get down on itself as individuals and as a collective whole."

The game will be televised on the SEC Network.


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