Nashville, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - The 13th-seeded Auburn Tigers will try to shock the world on Saturday when they take on the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena.
The top-seeded Wildcats became the first team in SEC history to start a season 32-0 on Friday as they coasted to a 64-49 win over Florida in their postseason debut. Kentucky needs just two more victories to claim its 28th SEC Tournament title, having won exactly half of the previous 54 editions of the event.
Coach John Calipari's squad picked up its third win over Florida this season despite hitting on only 37.5 percent of its field goal attempts. The Wildcats showed tremendous discipline on the defensive end, as the Gators made only five trips to the free-throw line. Stingy defensive play was a huge factor throughout the campaign for Kentucky during its pursuit of perfection. The Wildcats led the nation in field goal percentage defense (.349) and scoring margin (plus-21.4), while ranking second in scoring defense (53.5 ppg) and blocked shots (207 - 6.9 per game).
Karl-Anthony Towns registered his seventh double-double of the campaign for the Wildcats on Friday with 13 points and 12 boards, while Aaron Harrison also netted 13 points. Harrison, who leads Kentucky in scoring at 11.2 ppg, has tallied nine points or more in six consecutive outings. The Wildcats managed to win comfortably despite quiet performances by the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Willie Cauley-Stein, and the SEC Sixth Man of the Year, Devin Booker. Cauley-Stein posted nine points and two blocks, while Booker scored only four points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field. Tyler Ulis clocked a season-high 32 minutes en route to seven points, four assists and three steals.
The Wildcats dominated Auburn in their lone regular-season contest, defeating the Tigers 110-75 in Lexington. Auburn committed 15 turnovers and 21 personal fouls, while Kentucky sank 38-of-51 tries from inside the 3-point line.
Not only will Auburn be going up against the top ranked team in the nation on Saturday, but it will also be playing its fourth game in as many days. The Tigers, who finished 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC standings, began their postseason with a 74-68 upset of No. 12 seed Mississippi State. Coach Bruce Pearl then guided his team to a 66-59 decision over Texas A&M on Thursday before last night's thrilling 73-70 overtime triumph over LSU.
The Tigers' season appeared to be all but over on Friday, as they trailed LSU, 61-53, with 2:45 left to play. KT Harrell kept Auburn's Cinderella run alive single-handedly, scoring 11 of the team's points in the final two-and-a-half minutes of regulation, including a game-tying 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded. Harrell poured in four of his 29 points in the extra session. The Tigers then took their first lead of the game over LSU in overtime. Malcolm Canada provided 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor and K.C. Ross-Miller tied a personal best with seven rebounds.
Auburn was 0-11 versus SEC foes when trailing at the intermission during the regular season. It has overcome a halftime deficit in all three of its SEC Tournament games. The Tigers have stayed alive despite the struggles of Antoine Mason (14.3 ppg), who has tallied only 18 points on 7-of-22 efficiency from the field during the tourney.