Mark Story

Instant analysis: Who’s up, who’s down after Kentucky’s 80-53 win over Auburn

Former Kentucky basketball stars reminisce about 1958 title game

Former Kentucky basketball stars Ed Beck and Vernon Hatton remember UK’s victory over Seattle in the 1958 NCAA championship game. The 1957-58 title team is being honored as part of the UK-Auburn game on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019.
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Former Kentucky basketball stars Ed Beck and Vernon Hatton remember UK’s victory over Seattle in the 1958 NCAA championship game. The 1957-58 title team is being honored as part of the UK-Auburn game on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019.

Instant analysis from No. 4 Kentucky’s 80-53 win over Auburn:

How the game was won

Behind stellar play from PJ Washington (24 points, six rebounds) and Keldon Johnson (eight points, career-high 17 rebounds, five assists), No. 4 Kentucky used a 16-2 run in the first half to turn a 20-15 lead into a 36-17 advantage and went on to bury visiting Auburn.

Game balls

1. PJ Washington. Continuing his emergence as a star-level player, the Kentucky power forward has now scored 20 points or more in eight of the past 10 games.

2. Keldon Johnson. The UK swingman’s stellar all-around game featured his seeming to be the first person to every “50-50 ball.”

3. Ashton Hagans. When the Kentucky point guard (14 points, five assists) plays well, the Wildcats play well.

4. Kentucky three-point shooting. UK’s outside marksmanship (11 of 24 three-pointers) beat Auburn (seven of 25) at its own game.

5. UK shot blocking. With Reid Travis sidelined by a sprained knee, the Kentucky post player’s replacements, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards, each blocked three shots.

The No. 4 Kentucky men's basketball team defeated Auburn 80-53 Saturday at Rupp Arena.

Reasons for worry

1. Fool’s gold? When a team such as Kentucky that is not normally reliant on the trey enjoys an abnormally good day shooting it, there is sometimes a “fool’s gold” factor in future games.

Key number(s)

Fourteen and six. Kentucky is now 14-6 against Bruce Pearl-coached teams. The Cats went 9-4 vs. Pearl as coach at Tennessee and are 5-2 vs. him as Auburn head man.

The Cat-mosphere

1. Kentucky recognized members of its 1958 NCAA championship team, the fourth and final NCAA title claimed by iconic UK coach Adolph Rupp. Earl Adkins, Ed Beck, Johnny Cox, Vernon Hatton, Phil Johnson, Don Mills and Harold Ross as well as team manager Jay Atkerson were introduced to a standing ovation from the Rupp Arena crowd of 23,427 before the game.

2. Cody Austin, an artist in residence in the UK College of Fine Arts, performed a rousing rendition of the national anthem.

3. The Firecrackers, the Ohio jump-rope team of fourth- through eighth-grade girls, provided the halftime entertainment.

4. Johnny Cox, star forward for UK’s 1958 NCAA champs, was the “Y.”

Up next

No. 4 Kentucky (23-4, 12-2 SEC) will face Arkansas (14-12, 5-8 SEC) Tuesday night at 9 p.m. at Rupp Arena in a game that will be telecast by the SEC Network.

Going into Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. contest vs. Texas A&M, Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks have lost four games in a row.

UK leads the all-time series with Arkansas 31-11.

Know your foe

1. Mike Anderson is 4-8 as a head coach vs. UK. As UAB head man, Anderson split two NCAA Tournament games against the Wildcats, upsetting No. 1 seed Kentucky 76-75 in the 2004 round of 32 but losing 69-64 to the Cats in the 2006 round of 64. At Arkansas, Anderson won three of his first four meetings against Kentucky, but has since lost six in a row vs. UK.

Mike Anderson
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson is 4-8 against Kentucky as a head man. He was 1-1 vs. the Wildcats as UAB coach and is 3-7 as Arkansas coach. Wade Payne Associated Press

2. Kentucky’s PJ Washington had a double-double, 13 points and 10 rebounds, and also had three assists, two blocked shots and two steals last season as a freshman in UK’s 87-72 win over Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Sophomore big man Daniel Gafford is the top player for Arkansas. The 6-foot-11 Gafford had nine points, five rebounds and four blocked shots in the Razorbacks’ 87-72 loss to Kentucky last season. Butch Dill AP

3. Daniel Gafford, a 6-foot-11, 233-pound sophomore from El Dorado, Ark., is the leading scorer (16.3 points) and rebounder (8.8) for the Razorbacks and has blocked 51 shots in 26 games. Last season against UK, Gafford had nine points, five rebounds and four blocks.


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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a H-L sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.