"I feel like I'm getting good shots," said Crawford after the game, "I felt like I was getting good looks earlier in the year too, but I just wasn't knocking them down. That's changed these past two games. The team is playing well and we're winning."
The Tigers were never really in the game. The Cats controlled the game from the opening tip, breaking out to a 12-2 lead behind buckets by Randolph Morris, Bradley, Bobby Perry and Derrick Jasper. The Cats built more momentum slowly to a 36-19 halftime lead.
The Tigers tried to hang tough for a while in the second half but the tough Wildcats defense gave up very few easy shots and coach Jeff Lebo's club could get no closer than 14 with 4:29 remaining in the game. But the Wildcats would blow the game open with a 17-5 run to close the game. The Cats won running away despite a whopping 19 turnovers. Kentucky shot better than 50% from the field for the second game in a row, but also had 19 assists.
"When you have 19 assists, that means you are looking for people and getting some open looks," coach Tubby Smith said after the game, "Against the 1-3-1, if you are patient, you can find some open spots there. We made shots down the stretch and made some free-throws." Auburn entered the contest with an 11-5 overall record and 1-0 in SEC play but had lost three of its last five games before tonight. The Wildcats continued to smother its opponents defensively, holding the Tigers to just 28% shooting both overall and from three-point range.
"Coach (Smith) is a defensive coach," said Crawford, "That's what he wants us to be first (a defensive team). He's made us a defensive team. We know that if we play defense the offense will come to us."
For Joe Crawford, it was his second consecutive game scoring more than 20 points per game. The 6-foot-3 Michigan product scored 23 on Saturday at Ole Miss. Crawford shot 7-12 from the field and a perfect 3-3 from three point range.
Bradley had an outstanding night, dishing seven assists to go with his 18 boards and career-high 11 rebounds, coming within three assists of his first-ever triple-double. He also committed just one turnover and added a couple of steals. "I didn't know I was that close," Bradley said, "One of our managers kept telling me during timeouts to ‘pass the ball, pass the ball.' I thought he was trying to tell me I was shooting too much, but I just had no idea he was trying to help me get those three assists."
"I thought [Ramel] Bradley and [Joe] Crawford were terrific tonight," said Auburn coach Jeff lebo, "Bradley had a great game, he didn't turn the ball over, he took big shots, he got to the foul line. He is a smart player, a very smart player. He gets to that foul line and shoots a high percentage. We just could not shoot the ball in the first half. We were a little intimidated in the first half especially."
Senior Bobby Perry seemed to finally come out of his shooting slump, connecting on 4-7 from the field for a total of 12 points. Morris had a quieter-than-normal night with 12 points and six rebounds, primarily due to foul trouble,
The Wildcats will remain at home where they will next face the Mississippi State Bulldogs (10-5, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday. MSU beat the Ole Miss Rebels by 10 tonight at home. Prior to tonight's game the Bulldogs had lost three straight games.