Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: 5 Lessons We Can Learn from Game at Auburn
In their second SEC game of the season, the Kentucky Wildcats will go on the road to face the Auburn Tigers.
This game should be an easy win for the Wildcats, but John Calipari will want to see his team perform well in a true road test. This will be only the second time this year that Kentucky hasn't played at a neutral location or within the friendly confines of Rupp Arena.
Kentucky showed their dominance in a win over South Carolina January 7 but still showed signs of weakness. Allowing 46 points in the second half shows a lack of focus, among other things.
Auburn may not provide much of a challenge, but we can still learn quite a bit from this one road game. How will Kentucky fare on the road? How deep will Calipari reach on his bench?
Those questions, and more, will be answered in their game against Auburn.
How Deep Is Kentucky's Roster?
SEC games will come in a flurry.
Kentucky will play three games from January 11 to the 17, two of them on the road. Throughout SEC play, there will be only one break of at least five days, compared to the three Kentucky had in non-conference play.
All of that means that John Calipari will be forced to play reserves more. Kyle Wiltjer, Eloy Vargas and Darius Miller will all see extended amounts of playing time.
The bigger question is how long will Twany Beckham play? Will he start to see more significant minutes, or Calipari continue to shuffle Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague at the point?
Against Auburn, we will see just how much Calipari is willing to play reserves in games where Kentucky is the favorite.
Inconsistency is a glaring hole in Kentucky's game.
In the South Carolina game alone, Kentucky was outrebounded, and surprisingly, outscored in the second half.
The first half, Kentucky played great defense, allowing only 18 points. The second half was quite the opposite. That has been the story line all year: Kentucky plays well in one half, loses focus in the other.
I look to Darius Miller to lead this young Kentucky team. He knows the ropes, knows what kind of focus it takes to succeed on the road. He has been inconsistent this year as well, some nights going for 15-plus points and other nights less than seven.
If Kentucky wants to go undefeated in conference play, they need to learn to play a full 40 minutes of basketball, something they have not done all year.
Which Terrence Jones Will We See?
I was high on Terrence Jones coming in to this year. Higher than any other player for Kentucky. And through Kentucky's first eight games, he delivered.
But something changed when the Wildcats went to Indiana. Jones only scored four points in a game that he could have taken over and shown a killer instinct that he had been lacking. He then proceeded to crush my hopes of him being Player of the Year and scored 11 points in the next three games he played, on 5-of-22 shooting. Ouch.
Jones then appeared back to form against South Carolina, leading Kentucky with 20 points and missed only one shot.
So, which Terrence Jones will we see against Auburn, the team that he scored 35 points against last year?
A resurgent Terrence Jones would be great for Kentucky and my self-esteem.
To the dismay of the entire Big Blue Nation, Kentucky is unable to play every single game at Rupp Arena.
This road game at Auburn will be a great indicator of how well Kentucky will play on the road in the SEC. There are eight road games remaining for the Wildcats, and whether or not Kentucky plays down to their competition in this game, will preview what's ahead.
Kentucky needs to prove that they can put away opponents early and allow coach John Calipari to put in reserves in the first half for once.
Having a killer instinct will help in conference and tournament games.
Focus, Focus, Focus
In the end, it all comes down to focus.
Kentucky plays rival Tennessee in three days. They're receiving all the hype in the world for being the No. 2 ranked team in the nation and for being so talented.
No game will come easy in the SEC. Every team is capable of pulling off the upset, just look at what happened in the first round of SEC games: Mississippi State lost to Arkansas and Florida lost to Tennessee. On the road, anything can happen.
Will Kentucky come out focused against an inferior Auburn squad?
They're undoubtedly the most talented team in the SEC. It all comes down to whether or not they're focused for a full 40 minutes of play.
If we see a full game of great play, it will show us that Kentucky is ready to take on a full slate of SEC games.