Allen Flanigan leads the way for Auburn as the Tigers defeat Kentucky at home
Auburn Arena wasn’t as crazy as it usually is when Kentucky comes to town. Yet, the game was just as exciting as ever.
The Tigers defeated Kentucky 66-59 on Saturday in a back and forth game in which neither team had a lead larger than seven points. Sharife Cooper becoming eligible has changed the way Auburn plays, and the ball is being spread around more in the last three games than it has all season.
Cooper had 11 points and seven assists against the Wildcats, but it was Allen Flanigan that led the way in scoring. Flanigan finished the game with 21 points along with nine rebounds, which were both the highest numbers on the court today.
After the game, Bruce Pearl praised Flanigan’s style of play saying, “Allen Flanigan is a man out there, he is a full-grown man.”
So far this season, Auburn hasn’t looked like the same team of the past couple of years. Shooting on the perimeter has been a struggle for the Tigers, only hitting 4-23 in this game, and Auburn has only shot 33% from deep this season. However, Bruce Pearl is letting his team play to their strengths.
On the inside Auburn has a big man, TJ Thor, who is built for the NBA. Thor only had six points against the Wildcats but was able to create havoc down low in the paint to create space for other players to get clean shots at the rim. Stretch Akingbola is another big man who had zero points today, but his presence was felt down low opening up the floor for his teammates.
Pearl would be the first one to admit that his team was struggling earlier this season without Cooper being eligible to play. For that beginning stretch of the season, Auburn didn’t even have a true point guard on the court, but now the Tigers are starting to trend upwards.
Before the game, Pearl explained what it meant to play Kentucky. On what it takes to beat the Wildcats team, he said, “We’ll have to play our best game of the year to beat Kentucky… They’re the benchmark of our league.” He continued, “People will be measured on how you play against Kentucky, and that’s how you should be measured.”
At the end of the day, Pearl’s team was able to measure themselves against Kentucky to see where they stand in the league.
On his team’s win over the Cats, Pearl commented, “Give Kentucky credit, but we managed to to score 42 points in the second half to get the victory.”
Kentucky isn’t the same juggernaut that college basketball fans are used to seeing, but a win over the Wildcats is always a big deal for any team. After the loss today, they fall to 4-8 on the season and are 3-2 in conference play after starting off 3-0.
The two SEC teams to beat the Cats this season were the two teams from the state of Alabama. While Auburn has recently become the “basketball school” of the state, Alabama is the top team in the SEC at this point of the season with five straight conference wins.
The Tide look a lot like the last few Auburn teams who lived or died by the three-point shot.
These two Yellowhammer State teams will meet again later in the year, but for now Auburn have their sights set on Arkansas. Auburn will travel to Fayetteville to take on the 10-4 (2-3 in conference) Razorbacks on Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. CT.
Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: email@example.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.