AUBURN — Danjel Purifoy will miss his second straight game with a severe ankle injury as Auburn travels to No. 6 Kentucky this weekend.
The redshirt freshman forward is still inactive for practices as Auburn (11-5, 1-3) prepares to face the Wildcats (14-2, 4-0 SEC). Purifoy suffered the injury in the 88-85 loss to Ole Miss on Jan. 7.
“He is out of the boot and moving around and progressing faster than we thought when originally diagnosed,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said Friday. “He will not travel to Kentucky.”
Purifoy’s absence likely will mean freshman Anfernee McLemore will get his second career start after the former three-star prospect struggled with foul trouble at Missouri on Tuesday night. In Auburn’s 77-72 win at Mizzou Arena, McLemore had no points, four rebounds and four fouls in just 14 minutes of action forcing junior wing player T.J. Lang to move to the power forward spot.
Auburn has options at the power forward spot that include Lang, graduate transfer LaRon Smith and former walk-on Devin Waddell but none of those players come close to reaching the production of Purifoy’s 13.7 points and 7.3 rebounds.
“Danjel is instant offense and we he doesn’t have it going offensively, he can do what he did in the UConn game, grabbing 15 rebounds so he’s versatile offensively and defensively so he’s a nightmare matchup for any team at the four position,” Lang said Friday. “Losing him really hurts us and we’ve got to find a way to hold it down until he comes back.”
Kentucky is 46-2 all-time in Rupp Arena against Auburn and Pearl is 4-8 all-time vs. Wildcats coach John Calipari including the historic game when Pearl’s No. 2 Tennessee squad knocked off No. 1 Memphis 66-62 on Feb. 23, 2008.
Kentucky is one of the team’s on Auburn’s schedule that can match and likely exceed the Tigers pace as the Wildcats average 93.8 points a game and Ken Pomeroy’s analytical statistics has Kentucky as the 13th fastest pace team in the nation.
“The John Wall team was a very special team. They played as well going fast and played as well together as any team I'd seen in coaching up to that point,” Pearl said Friday. “This team reminds me of that team because of the way they run and how they advance past the ball and how they attack the rim so quickly, how unselfish they are and how they don't turn the ball over going fast. It is beautiful basketball to watch.”
The Wildcats are led by four starting freshmen including the league’s leading scorer in Malik Monk and one of the nation’s premier forwards in Bam Adebayo. The 6-foot-9 freshman averages 13.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks a game.
“We were blessed and fortunate enough to get Bam Adebayo to come visit Auburn,” Pearl said. “What an incredible young man. In personality, he's nothing like he plays. He is a beast on the basketball court and he is a student athlete, a scholar and a gentleman and just a great kid, great family, humble, and he's got a great future in front of him. He is a load.”