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Big opportunity awaits Auburn in Lexington
Feb. 20, 2015

Auburn and Jordon Granger ready for action in Rupp Arena

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  Maybe they won't know any better, that Auburn has only won two times, ever, in Lexington, that Auburn has lost 18 straight to Kentucky.
Inexperience may be a plus when Auburn meets No. 1 and undefeated Kentucky at 6 p.m., Auburn time, Saturday in Rupp Arena on ESPN.

"This is one of those opportunities that you can tell your grandchildren about," said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl on Friday. 

Kentucky is a gaudy 26-0 overall and 13-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Maybe the fact the Wildcats start a 7-foot center and two 6-11 forwards have something to do with that. Auburn is 12-14 overall and 4-9 in the league. The Tigers' tallest starter is 6-8 Jordon Granger.

Look for Auburn, which leads the SEC in 3-point shots, to camp out on the perimeter again.

Oh, the last time Kentucky coach John Calipari was 26-0? Pearl beat him when Calipari was at Memphis and Pearl was at Tennessee.

Pearl said he asked his players how many of them had played a game in Rupp. Only Granger's hand went up, and he only played four minutes.

"I told them this is the biggest on-campus facility in the country. There is not a floor we will play on all year long with as much history and tradition. There is not a building that will be as loud or as full of people that know the game," Pearl said. "We have an opportunity to represent Auburn and to see if we can find a way to keep them on the perimeter and defend our rim, make shots, and those fans will appreciate the smallest team in the league, and probably one of the smallest teams in the big five conferences going up against the largest team in, perhaps, the history of college basketball."

Pearl joked Kentucky's only concern may be which of its 6-foot-10 players will guard 6-4 KT Harrell.

"To beat Kentucky," Pearl said, "would take an extraordinarily superhuman effort."

Pearl all but conjured up a vision of coach Norman Dale from the movie Hoosiers.

"I brought 10 guys in and we all got in the paint. I said, 'In here we are in serious trouble. But this is only a small part of the court. Everywhere else on the court their size isn't as much of a disadvantage as it is here. So what can we do to keep them out of here?

"The answer to that is much more difficult. I wanted them to have some confidence. Can we get to the rim and finish or which guy is going to come over and beat it out of bounds? As you think about Malcolm (Canada) and his ability to get to the lane and make some tough shots, can he do that against that size? Can Cinmeon (Bowers) finish? How are we going to get KT open, and when we do which other guy is going to switch out on him? It will be really interesting. But great environment and a great opportunity. It is good for RPI. I have to look for something positive because we are playing against the No. 1 team. That is what we will focus on."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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