"I'm not disappointed in our team's effort at all," Ellis noted. "I feel like our team is trying to do everything they possibly can. We got beat by a team that is a very good basketball team and ranked high. We just had a flurry or two where things didn't go the way we needed them to.
"I thought we gave ourselves a chance to win and if a couple of shots go down I think our mental aspect of the game will open up. Right now we're kind of playing and doubting ourselves with a few shots. We've just got to stay aggressive and play and get better in that aspect."
The flurries that Ellis alluded to were back breakers for Auburn Tuesday night. One in the first half was damaging, but it was a scoring drought of more than six minutes in the second half that finished the Tigers off for good. Following back-to-back three pointers from Lincoln Glass that cut the Kentucky lead to just three points with 16:13 remaining in the game, Auburn appeared to be in good shape heading down the stretch. But the Wildcats would answer in a hurry.
Following a time out by Kentucky coach Tubby Smith to stem the Auburn momentum, they Wildcats came found Gerald Fitch on the right wing. He continued to step up big for Kentucky like he has done all season as he drained the open jumper to give the Wildcats a three-point lead. To top it off, he was fouled on the play and calmly hit the free throw to make the score 40-36. Before the run was finished, Kentucky had scored 11 straight points to make the count 50-36 and put Auburn squarely behind the eight ball.
However, as they have done all season, the Tigers answered the bell. An Abdou Diame layup with 9:54 remaining in the game got Auburn off the canvas and got the crowd back into the game. Over the next three minutes, Auburn would cut the Wildcat lead to just four as an Adam Harrington three-pointer made the score 54-50 with just over six minutes left. But, just like before, the Wildcats would not relinquish control of the game.
Kyle Davis blocks a shot. The center played just 15 minutes due to foul trouble.
Last season's SEC Player of the Year, Tayshaun Prince, struggled for much of the game but came up big when his team needed him most as he drained an open three from the right wing to put Kentucky back up by seven. The lead would eventually build to 12 before Auburn made a late run. It was to no avail as the Wildcats coasted to the win despite making just eight of their last 20 free throws.
Marco Killingsworth had a solid game off the bench for the Tigers with 13 points and six rebounds while Glass chipped in with nine points and two assists. Kyle Davis and Harrington both added seven points each for Auburn as the Tigers shot just 35.8 percent from the field and made only 5-of-23 from behind the arc. A positive for the Tigers is they outrebounded the taller Wildcats 45-38 for the game, but committed 18 turnovers against the pressure defense of Kentucky.
True freshman point guard Lewis Monroe saw his first action since the Rutgers game as he played 10 minutes and dished out one assist with no turnovers. He is expected to see more playing time as he continues to recover from a strained back. The plan had been to redshirt Monroe, but AU's point guard play prompted Ellis to get him ready for action.
Lewis Monroe had his redshirt removed and played point guard vs. the Wildcats.
The first half was all about size as the big men for Kentucky had their way on the boards and in the score sheet. Particularly impressive was Estill. A reserve who averages just 10 points per game, Estill scored 13 while Bogans added seven points. Suprisingly Prince was held in check, scoring just three points.
For the Tigers, Daniels was the story. After turning the ball over three times in the first three minutes, the junior settled down after a benching by Ellis and came out firing. With Auburn trailing 16-11, Daniels came into the game and proceeded to score 15 of Auburn's final 19 points of the half as the Tigers went into intermission down 37-30.
"There is no question that Estill showed a presence tonight that was extremely strong, extremely strong," Ellis noted. "To be honest with you, I thought he was the main difference in that game. We kept Prince down, none of the guys were any different than what they normally do, but the guy that came in here was Estill."
The Tigers get back into action Sunday at 3 p.m. when they travel to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers. The game will be televised live by Fox Sports Net South.