If Saturday’s basketball game between Auburn and Kentucky lives up to the “clash of titans” billing that Tigers head coach Bruce Pearl has given it, it won’t be Pearl’s first such contest against Wildcats counterpart John Calipari.
Auburn Defeated Kentucky 77-71
In the Elite Eight this year, Auburn defeated Kentucky 77-71 to go to the school’s first-ever national championship game. A game between Pearl’s Tennessee Volunteers and Calipari’s Memphis Tigers, from 2008. That was a championship-level matchup between the top two squads in the country. On Thursday, Pearl reflected on the 66-62 thriller in which his Vols had destroyed Memphis’ perfect season.
However, the upcoming matchup between Pearl and Calipari will eclipse even that game in terms of importance. That’s how Pearl sees it, at least. There will be no more regular-season meetings between No. 2 Auburn (17-1, 6-0 SEC) and No. 12 Kentucky (15-3, 5-1) after Saturday’s (12 p.m., CBS) game. The winner will take over exclusive possession of first place in the SEC.
It is common knowledge among those who know Bruce Pearl that he is a history buff who values the lessons to be learned from the past. That’s why he’s so excited about the opportunity to revamp the basketball team at Auburn.
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There’s a “AU” logo on the wall of the Auburn basketball team’s locker room. And the slogan “create history” wraps around that emblem. In the past, Auburn has established itself as a historical power.
During Sonny Smith’s tenure as head coach, the Tigers made the NCAA Tournament five years in a row from 1982–1986, when they were ranked in the AP Top 25. The next two years, Auburn went undefeated in the regular season, won the SEC, and received a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The 2002–03 squad, led by Marquis Daniels, made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen before succumbing to eventual champion Syracuse.
While “making history” isn’t something we do every year, Pearl claims that the past few years have been exceptional. You want to make a lasting impression. You devote your entire career to becoming a historical figure. That’s why it’s significant. In other words, it has stood the test of time.
Pearl, well cognizant of his implied meaning, said, “We’ve got so much more of this weekend to savour right now after this win.”
Continue with the celebration.
Auburn basketball is still on a roll as the campus’s life of the party, and it looks like the ruckus could continue all the way through March. Indeed, until the end of April.
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There was a period when Auburn “would always play you hard, but really wasn’t much of a danger to beat you,” Pearl said of the current programme he coaches. For this reason, Coach Calipari need only convince his squad to treat Auburn with the due respect it deserves. Now it’s different. Finally, this match has some bearing on the future. Pearl summed up the durability of this significance by noting, “it stands the test of time.”