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Wildcats seek to tame Tigers in SEC showdown

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Updated: 2/12 10:55 am

Auburn, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 14th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will attempt to win their fourth straight game on Wednesday night when they pay a visit to the Auburn Tigers in an SEC clash.

Kentucky captured an impressive 69-59 road victory over Mississippi State on Saturday to keep its winning streak alive. The Wildcats, who have won two straight road games, are a stellar 18-5 overall this season, and at 8-2 in the SEC, they sit alone in second place in the league standings behind Florida.

Auburn had won three straight games prior to its 87-80 setback at LSU on Saturday, which caused it to drop to 11-10 on the season and just 3-7 in league action. Most of the Tigers' success this season has come at Auburn Arena, where they've gone 10-3.

The Wildcats have a dominating advantage over the Tigers in the all-time series, 88-17, with Auburn going winless versus Kentucky since January of 2000.

Kentucky held on for a 10-point victory over the weekend by outshooting Mississippi State from the field, 45 percent to 38.3 percent, and by earning advantages in the both the rebounding (38-33) and turnover (13-9) battles. Julius Randle was the top performer on the afternoon, shooting 8-of-13 from the field for 16 points to go with seven rebounds. James Young added 11 points, and Aaron Harrison filled the stat sheet with nine points, six assists, six rebounds and two steals.

On the season, the Wildcats are a very well-rounded team, as they shoot 47.5 percent from the field for 79.5 ppg, while allowing just 66.7 ppg on 39.7 percent shooting for a scoring margin (+12.8) topped only by Florida in the SEC. They're also outstanding on the glass, ranking third in the nation in rebounding margin (+10.1). Randle anchors the squad from the frontcourt with 16.0 ppg and 9.8 rpg. Young (14.5 ppg), Aaron Harrison (14.5 ppg) and Andrew Harrison (10.7 ppg, 3.5 apg) join Randle as part of a great freshman class. Sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein had been solid in the paint with 7.9 ppg and 6.4 and is an elite defender with 1.2 spg and 3.1 bpg.

The Tigers held a three-point lead early in the second half of their most recent contest but fell victim to a 10-0 LSU run and never got closer than four points the rest of the way. They shot a mere 40.3 percent from the field and were both outrebounded (46-35) and outscored at the free-throw line (27-16) by convincing margins. Chris Denson was excellent despite the defeat, as he shot 11-of-23 from the field on his way to a game-high 29 points. KT Harrell chipped in 19 points before fouling out and Tahj Shamsid-Deen added 16 points to the losing effort.

Scoring points hasn't been the issue this season for Auburn, as it shoots 45.2 percent from the field for 73.2 ppg, but it has struggled in SEC action due to its 13th-ranked scoring defense (72.0 ppg). With Denson's latest performance, he has taken over the SEC scoring lead with 20.2 ppg, doing so on 48.6 percent shooting from the floor. Harrell is right on his tail with 19.4 ppg, having made 50 3-pointers at a 39.1 percent clip, while knocking down 85.2 percent of his free-throw tries. Shamsid-Deen has also been solid with 9.4 ppg and Allen Payne (7.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.2 bpg) mans the paint.

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