Kentucky continued its up and down season last night by dominating the Auburn (8-9, 2-2) Tigers en route to a 22 point behind another spectacular effort from Nerlens Noel and the fast improving play of Kyle Wiltjer. After an extremely slow start, the score was tied 6-6 more than 10 minutes in, Nerlens Noel picked up two quick fouls with UK leading 10-8 and eight and a half minutes to go in the first half. Already without starter Willie Cauley-Stein, who stayed home for a “double dose of treatment” following a “minor knee procedure”, UK appeared to be in for the dogfight Calipari predicted earlier this week. Kyle Wiltjer made sure that didn’t happen, scoring 9 of his game high 17 points after Noel sat, and finding Alex Poythress for two easy dunks as UK found some breathing room to lead 30-25 at halftime. UK (12-5, 3-1) once again came out hot in the 2nd half and stretched their lead to double digits permanently when Kyle hit a 3-pointer five minutes into the 2nd half for a lead 44-33. Wiltjer finished with 4 rebounds and 5 assists along with his 17 points. Noel, (who picked up his 3rd foul 13 seconds into the 2nd half) finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 blocks; plus this tremendous alley-oop dunk, in 25 minutes. Archie Goodwin, Ryan Harrow, and Alex Poythress added 12 points apiece.
The stats don’t tell the whole story. Days after Calipari publicly wondered if this team was able to get a 20 point lead and hold it, or “whomp” somebody, they did exactly that. Granted, Auburn is not a good team and whomping them isn’t a sign that things are back to the level most expect in Lexington, but following a home loss and nearly blowing a big lead to an inferior team on the road, this is certainly a sign of improvement. UK will get a better measure Tuesday, when they visit Alabama, winners of three straight.
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