KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Auburn recalls how it felt to sit in the locker room of the Rupp Arena after a 80-53 defeat on national television.
"Embarrassed," said Jared Harper.
"Manhandled" Austin Wiley felt. "
" A little emotional, "added Bryce Brown.
" Pissed off, "by J & # 39; From McCormick.
The Tigers came in with clear intent The CBS-sponsored matchup, which sought to repay a 2-point defeat at Auburn Arena early in the season, was planning to retaliate against the college basketball world at a historic basketball court against one of the nation's most famous programs.
Not only did Auburn hope it would win, but the tigers knew it would happen in 1
Then they got a wake up call.
"We actually thought we were going in there and winning. But it's not easy for any program, "said Samir Doughty." For the people who have done this in recent years, I give them all the credit. They had to be super focused and locked up there. It was not the case for us that night. "
Kentucky played so it was Kentucky.The wildcats ruled the tigers on the glass and won the rebounding battle between 43 and 24. Kentucky made three more pointers than Auburn had more points in the paint, fast-break points and second-chance points.PJ Washington played as the SEC player of the year he was and scored 24. Keldon Johnson recovered like a man unable to was to hold back and pulled 17 boards.
Simply put, the boxing notch was awful from Auburn's perspective.
Making matters worse – or perhaps looking back, more manageable – the tigers did not think they were bad They considered the Wildcats exceptional in front of their home fans.
"When we entered the game, we were very confident that we could shock people by winning in Kentucky. I do not know if we played really bad. We played OK. We did not play as well as we would have liked. But I think Kentucky played really well in this game, "said Harper," they fired many shots. They have made many good shots. They had a great team. They have professionals in their team. They have professionals who will play like this. "
However, Auburn went back to the locker room after the game was stunned by such impressive defeat.
All those feelings – embarrassed, abused, emotional, angry – were in the locker room As the players say, Bruce Pearl came in and was honest with what had just developed in Lexington, and Wiley joked that he could not hold Pearl's exact speech without a "censored version."
Auburn players tried to re-enact this moment.
"The coach was on us, man," Brown said, shaking his head.
"The coach just told us honestly," Doughty said. The coach was actually just honest with us and told us that we were not ourselves. "
" He essentially said that they won. They won the game, "McCormick said." We got mad. "
" He pretty much said we played soft, "according to Wiley's censored count.
Pearl does not remember being that tough .
"I left the game and did not want our boys to defeat themselves. This is a team of Final Four teams. That's what it looks like right there. This is the gap between us and them, 27 points. What do we have to do to fill the gap? I was not crazy with them, "said Pearl." We were slapped in the mouth and we were beaten. But we were not allowed to define ourselves. "
Let's make this clear: The Tigers did not allow them to be defined – in a negative way.
Everything Auburn has since been defined by its response to the Rupp meltdown It's an 11-win winning streak on February 23. The tigers have torn down Tennessee, Kansas and North Carolina, playing like a team that has completely forgotten how undressed it was against Kentucky.
"Just to know that it is a game. You can watch the warriors. You can beat one team one night and maybe face them another time 20. Do not let a match become three or four games, "said Harper." We left that one game behind and we still have that done what we need to know in order to be able to win. … Let's not let that make three or four games. Try to recover and learn from our mistakes and this loss as much as we can.
That's what Auburn has done.
It has done it against Georgia and the state of Mississippi and Alabama and Tennessee and Missouri and South Carolina as well as Florida and Tennessee and the state of New Mexico and New Mexico North Carolina and Kansas Auburn Not thinking about Kentucky, the tigers were thinking about the imminent enemy.
It's harder for the tigers to leave it now, looking at what lies ahead of them, it's only right that Kentucky does the only team standing between Auburn and the first Final Four appearance in program history.
The Tigers Would not Want It Anyway.
"There's going to be a lot of emotion going into the game," Brown said Glad we got this match. "
It's an opportunity to prove that they were right the first time – that they are good enough to beat Kentucky on the biggest stage.
" I think a part of I'm definitely happy, "Harper said. "Just knowing how we went against Kentucky this year, lost a close match and lost the second, I think that's great for us to win the one that counts, we're ready now, we have ours Chance."