Auburn, Ala.--Last season Rob Chubb played one of his better games vs. Kentucky, matching up nicely against UK All-American Anthony Davis.
Davis, who led the Wildcats to the national championship, played for the U.S. Olympic team and was taken No. 1 in the NBA Draft, but was unable to dominate Chubb last January at the Auburn Arena.
Chubb, a 6-10 center, finished that contest with 14 points and eight rebounds. He also won praise after the game for his play from Davis, who scored 14 points for the Wildcats while adding six rebounds.
Coach Tony Barbee’s Tigers kept the game interesting until the closing minutes. Auburn trailed 51-49 with 5:38 left before the Wildcats pulled away for a 68-53 victory.
On Saturday the Tigers and Wildcats will meet at Auburn Arena. Tipoff is set for shortly after 8 p.m. CST. The game, which will be televised on ESPNU, was sold out earlier this week.
Chubb says it is exciting to have the opportunity to play against the Wildcats and their head coach, John Calipari. “It is always a battle,” the senior says.
“Calipari always finds really good players who are very athletic and who have a lot of raw talent,” Chubb notes. “It is always a challenge playing his team. The fact that he is Coach Barbee’s mentor makes it that much more of a challenge to us.”
Kentucky brings an 11-5 record into the game following a 75-65 homecourt victory over Tennessee. On Wednesday night Auburn lost 88-80 in double overtime at Arkansas. Both teams are 2-1 in SEC play.
“Me personally, I love playing Kentucky,” says Chubb, who notes he really likes the atmosphere of games at Rupp Arena. “To get them here at home, with our crowd behind us, it is going to be a great one,” the senior adds,
With Davis gone to the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets the UK big man for Chubb to deal with this season is 6-10, 228 freshman Nerlens Noel, who is averaging 10.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
Chubb points out both have similar style games. “They are jumping jacks,” he says. “If you give them space to gather and jump, they are going to out-jump almost anyone in the nation.
“One of the things I was trying to do last year was take away Davis’ legs--box him out, keep my rear on him and keep him from springing up and trying to use my weight to keep him away from a position where he could get a lot of rebounds like he usually gets.”
Nerlens Noel is a freshman from Everett, Mass.
“I am probably going to keep it the same because Noel is such an athletic guy and I have weight on him,” adds Chubb, who checks in at 250-plus pounds. “If I can get him into the lane I would to do a couple of different types of fakes and see which one he bites on and try to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.”
After struggling earlier in the season, the Tigers go into Saturday night’s record with an 8-8 record. Chubb, who is coming off of consecutive double-double games for points and rebounds, says his team is eager to improve their record.
“One word to describe us would be ‘hungry,’ the senior says as his team hopes to rebound from the loss at Arkansas that ended a three-game winning streak. “We let that one slip out of our grasp a little bit. It wasn’t one we should have gave up, but Arkansas played a heck of a game.”
Kentucky features three other freshmen in the starting lineup in addition to Noel. Archie Goodwin, a 6-4 freshman guard, is the team’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game. Alex Poythress, a 6-7, 239 forward, is averaging 13.2 points and 6.4 rebounds. Willie Cauley-Stein, a 7-0, 244 forward, is averaging 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds.
The other starter is 6-2 sophomore Ryan Harrow, who is averaging 10.3 points and 3.4 assists.
Off the bench 6-10 sophomore Kyle Wiltjer is averaging 10.9 points and 4.4 rebounds while 6-2 guard Julius Mays is scoring 8 6 points per contest.
Frankie Sullivan, who scored 26 points and pulled in nine rebounds vs. Arkansas, leads Auburn in scoring with 17.8 points per game.
Auburn’s second leading scorer, guard Chris Denson at 15.2 points per game, has missed the last four games with a stress fracture in his foot. Barbee says he is not sure when the junior will be ready to play again.
With Denson and freshman guard Jordan Price both sidelined with injuries the Tigers have been looking for Chubb, junior forward Allen Payne, senior guard/forward Noel Johnson and others to carry more of the scoring load.
“We are starting to come together chemistry-wise with the older guys leading the younger guys and the younger guys following with everybody pulling the bandwagon in the same direction,” Chubb says.
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