Sunday, March 31, 2019

NCAAB Game Preview: Auburn vs. Kentucky - 3/31/2019 - 2:20 PM EST

NCAAB Game Preview: Auburn vs. Kentucky - Date: 3/31/2019 Mar 30, 2019The Auburn Tigers have found their niche, and it's beating the blue bloods of men's college basketball. On Sunday, in the Midwest Regional final, they'll get a chance at three in a row.Fifth-seeded Auburn beat top-seeded North Carolina 97-80 in the first Midwest Region semifinal Friday, the second straight victory over a top-three team in all-time wins. Sports Betting Handicapping. The Tar Heels are third, just behind Kansas, who Auburn beat 89-75 in the second round to advance to Friday's semifinal.On Sunday, Auburn (29-9) will face second-seeded Kentucky, the winningest program of all-time, with a chance to defeat the Wildcats for the first time this season. More importantly, with a win, they'll reach their first Final Four in school history. Kentucky held on for a 62-58 victory ove r third-seeded Houston.Like they did against Kansas, the Tigers blitzed the Tar Heels with a big run that turned the game. Against North Carolina, it was a 14-0 spurt wrapped around halftime."We are who we are," head coach Bruce Pearl said. "Bryce (Brown) didn't score in the first half, and I was on him more for his defense than his offense. We knew he would come around (12 points in the second half)."Jared (Harper) got two fouls in the first half and had to play limited minutes. When (he) came back in he was able to take the game over." Kentucky beat the Tigers 82-80 on the road Jan. 19, before handing the Tigers their worst loss of the season, 80-53 in Lexington, Ky., on Feb. 23. It was Auburn's most recent loss."We know how good they are," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "We've had battles. We were lucky to win down there; they missed a layup. We played pretty good and they missed shots they normally make at our place ."We respect them. We respect their players and what they do and how hard they play. We're a little different than them. One good thing, this means that the SEC will have one team in the Final Four." Pearl's recollection of the loss at Kentucky (30-6) is a little different from Calipari's."They physically overwhelmed us," he said. "We went into that game playing pretty well and we got manhandled. We didn't play great, but we got it handed to us, because they played so well." Auburn will be without sophomore forward Chuma Okeke, who left the second half of the Tigers' semifinal victory over North Carolina when he was injured after he was tripped and called for traveling. He laid on the floor for a few minutes while the crowd watched silently.Okeke suffered a torn ACL on the play and will undergo surgery Tuesday. He will stay with the team for Sunday's game.Okeke was leading Auburn in scoring, with 20 points, and rebounds, with 11, when he left the game. He is Auburn's third-leading scorer on the season with 12 points per game. He leads the Tigers with 6.8 rebounds per contest."I think Chuma is our most valuable player," Harper said. "He gets rebounds, gets assists. He can guard all five pockets. But I think the good thing going forward is that we have nine other guys. It will take all nine of our players to be able to step into his role, make sure we're in the right spots." Kentucky got its best player back for the game against Houston. PJ Washington finished with 16 points against the Cougars.--Field Level Media

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