CRAWFORD | Honoring Tony Delk: Three takeaways from UK's poundin - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Honoring Tony Delk: Three takeaways from UK's pounding of Auburn

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Graphic by UK Athletics. Graphic by UK Athletics.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) — There's not a lot you can say about what No. 1 ranked and undefeated Kentucky did to Auburn on Saturday night in Rupp Arena.

For the first 11 minutes of the game, Auburn did not have a shot from the field go through the hoop. Its lone field goal was a Kentucky goaltending call. The Wildcats led 30-4.

Everything after that was pretty much just running up and down. UK won the game 110-75. It was the first time in the regular season, and the first time since 2013 that this UK team has reached the 100-point mark. It was UK coach John Calipari's 100th win in Rupp Arena, against just four losses. UK improved to 27-0 to tie the longest single-season winning streak in school history — with the 1996 NCAA championship team.

That team is worth noting, because at halftime, UK retired the jersey of former All-American Tony Delk in the Rupp Arena rafters.

"They're physically overwhelming," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. ". . . I didn't play against (Michael) Kidd-Gilchrist and that bunch. That was my favorite team to watch. It was my first year out. . . . Because of their character and chemistry, I certainly think they can (go undefeated). They're the most physical offensive teams they've played. If they let them play, which I would hope they would do in a big game, I think they should have a real good chance to finish it out."

What can be gleaned from such a night? Read on.

1. TONY DELK'S HONOR WAS MUCH DESERVED. Every kid who ever walked into a coach's office and wanted to quit needs to remember Delk. After his freshman season at UK, he wasn't getting to play, he was talking to his brothers at home and went in to tell then-UK coach Rick Pitino he wasn't happy and wanted out.

Pitino told him to be patient. He told him that he wasn't going to recruit anyone to take his position. Delk led the Wildcats in scoring the next three seasons. He went to two Final Fours. He led UK's 1996 championship team. He left UK as the No. 5 scorer in school history, No. 1 on the school's three-point shooting career list and No. 2 in steals.

“I'm so glad I stayed now,” Delk said. “I got a text from (Pitino) yesterday just congratulating me and I have to thank him for just the hard work and believing in me. “Billy Donovan is one of those guys, when I wasn't playing, getting into the gym, working on my game night and day -- before he left and took the job at Marshall, he left me in good hands.”

Delk was asked about the current group of Wildcats, and whether, like his 1996 team, they might benefit from a late loss before the NCAA Tournament.

“We weren't trying to lose,” Delk said. “We had won 27 games in a row, of course not. I want to see this team go 40-0 -- you don't want to lose a game now. The way they have been playing, they have had close games and now it's about finishing off what they started. Having the experience come back from last season has really helped this year's group of guys. So you want to see a team like this finish what they started.  They are good, they play together, they enjoy the game, they have fun and they are well coached.”

Are they good enough to beat his 1996 team?

“It's different styles,” he said. “I thought our style was a lot different. They are really great at half court. We were great in the full court.  We pressed, we turned you over, we scored in the 90s and sometimes in the 100s. So we had a different style than what they are playing right now. They are long and athletic. I thought we were quicker. We had much better shooters — I will say that.”

None of them were better than Delk.

2. KENTUCKY: NOT AUBURN'S SUPER BOWL. It's hard to imagine a team having a worse time on both ends than Auburn in the first half against Kentucky.

Kentucky rebounded as many of its own missed shots (7) as Auburn did. It scored as many points in the paint (26) as Auburn scored  period, trailing 56-26 going to the locker room (and that only thanks to 10 points in the final 3:30 of the first half).

The Tigers came out and put on as much a run as they could to open the second half, scoring six straight points to force a timeout by John Calipari just two minutes into the half.

Six minutes later, they were down by 29.

"I didn't think we competed as well as we needed to," Pearl said. "They pounded it inside whenever they needed to. It's nothing like we see all year long. Their size -- there's no one else in the league that's even close to that. . . . I would have loved to see a little more toughness from my team. . . . Last time I was down 30-8 in 1995, UC Riverside in the Division II NCAA Championship in Louisville Kentucky. This game reminded me nothing of that game. We weren't coming back."

Let it be said -- Auburn kept scrapping. They strung together some threes and got their deficit back down to 18. They missed two free throws that would've gotten it to 16. A late flurry of threes kept it from being even more lopsided.

"They made 11 threes," Calipari said. "Maybe that's not the way to beat us."

First-year Tigers coach Bruce Pearl will build this program into suitable competition for Kentucky. But it wasn't Saturday night. For once, Kentucky gave someone its best shot, instead of receiving it.

"They caught us on a bad night," Calipari said. "We were hitting on all cylinders."

3. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS. A PLAYER. The freshman had 19 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes. I think that's what you call efficient. He was 8-9 from the field, 3-3 from the line and blocked four shots. He also dished out a pair of assists. Quietly he keeps improving.

"He's starting to be the best version of himself," Calipari said. "He's getting better. . . . And physically, he's nowhere near where he's going to be in two years."

UK shot a season-high 67.6 percent from the field. It outscored Auburn 62-24 in the paint and 43-10 off the bench. The Wildcats had 25 assists.

Andrew Harrison had 12 points and nine assists.

"He's really getting into the lane," Calipari said. "He's starting to realize that he's big and strong. ... I thought Karl-Anthony and Dakari (Johnson, 13 points, 6-7 shooting."

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