Coach Tony Barbee said his team played with an unexpected lack of confidence. The Tigers struggled with their shooting to such an extent that Barbee said it affected the way they played on the other end of the court allowing Kentucky too many easy shots. "As the drought continued we let it affect our level of defense," he said.
"It is disappointing is what it is," Barbee said. "We were playing well defensively early. We were getting everything we wanted early (offensively).
"Of our 15 threes one was kind of guarded," the coach said. "The other 14 were unguarded." Auburn finished the night 0-15 on three-point attempts.
It was just the third time Auburn has played a game without making a trey since the three-pointer was added to the college game. The last time it happened was on March 1, 1997 vs. Ole Miss.
The loss dropped the Tigers to 2-2 in the SEC and 8-9 for the season while the rebuilding 2011-12 national champions improved to 3-1 in the league and 12-5 overall.
"I got out-coached and we got out-played," said Barbee, who added the Tigers can't let the poor performance affect the progress the team has made in recent weeks.
A vocal crowd of 9,121 tried to urge the Tigers to victory starting with the opening tip on Saturday night.
Both teams struggled with their shooting in the first half although the Wildcats recovered late in the opening period. Kentucky warmed up to hit 42.9 percent in the first half and went from warm to hot in the second half making 66.7 percent of its shots in the final 20 minutes.
Rob Chubb led the Tigers in scoring with 14 points and also in rebounds with seven on a night the Tigers were dominated on the boards by a 43-30 count.
"We came out and played scared, plain and simple," Sullivan said. "We missed wide open jump shots.
"We had a great crowd that came out to support us tonight and we let them down," Sullivan added. "We can't have losses like that at home."
Kentucky's leading scorer came off the bench. Kyle Wiltjer scored 17 points to lead five Wildcats in double figures while adding five assists. Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress scored 12 points apiece while Nerlens Noel just missed a double-double with 10 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Auburn shot just 37.5 percent for the game. The Wildcats finished at 54.5 percent.
Asauhn Dixon-Tatum dunks for the Tigers.
While Auburn was laying a goose egg from behind the three-point line, Kentucky made 5-15 after struggling to make a trey in the first half.
UK hit 10-16 free throws while Auburn was 7-10 at the foul line.
One of the few positive statistics for the Tigers was they turned the ball over six fewer times than the Wildcats, who had 15.
Auburn trailed just 30-25 at halftime, but the visitors began to steadily build that margin, stretching their lead to double figures forcing Barbee to call a timeout at 16:52 after a fastbreak basket by Harrow to put the Wildcats up 37-27.
With the Wildcats making 18-27 field goals in the second half the Tigers were never able to make a run in the period, much to the disappointment of the first sellout crowd of the season.
"We had a real lack of aggression, a lack of poise," Chubb said of his team. "We let this one slip away. We are going to bounce back."
Barbee said there is no reason to give up on his team despite the disappointing performance. "One blip on the radar doesn't define who you are," he said.
Starting Lineup: Noel Johnson was a new starter replacing Shaquille Johnson. The Tigers went with a three-guard lineup with Josh Wallace and Frankie Sullivan joining Johnson along with Allen Payne at forward and Rob Chubb at center. Shaquille Johnson did not play in the first half due to a disciplinary reason, Barbee said.
Available Again: Guards Chris Denson and Jordan Price played as reserves after being out with injuries. Denson played 13 minutes and did not score. He had three rebounds and was 0-4 from the field, obviously out of sync. Price played six minutes and did not score. He was 0-2 shooting.
Coach Cal UK coach John Calipari noted the game plan was to try to stop Auburn's three-point shooters, but admitted the Tigers were missing wide open looks on Saturday night. He said the Wildcats played well and caught the Tigers on an off night.
Commenting on what he told his team as it struggled early, he said, "I said just keep guarding. We couldn't make a shot for a while either. We just gutted it out."
UK Dominating: UK has won 28 of the last 29 games vs. Auburn. The Tigers have just one win vs. the Wildcats since 1990.
Barbee On the Fans: Auburn's coach said he doesn't believe the fans are going to give up on the team despite its poor performance. "It's not going to affect our students or fans," he said. "They see how hard these guys are fighting and competing."
Up Next: The Tigers hit the road for a 7 p.m. game on Wednesday at Vanderbilt.