Kentucky 64, Auburn 56
AUBURN, Ala. — No. 14 Kentucky was far from its best Wednesday night on the road against Auburn, and in some categories the Wildcats were at their worst. Still, Kentucky’s offense woke up just in time to salvage a 64-56 win.
The Wildcats (19-5, 9-2 Southeastern Conference) shot 30.8 percent from the field, their worst by a wide margin. It was only their second game this season under 40 percent from the floor, the other in a Nov. 25 win over Cleveland State in which they were 35.8 percent.
Auburn (11-11, 3-8) challenged the Wildcats in the second half on the hot hand of guard Chris Denson. Denson, the league’s leading scorer at 20.2 points per game entering play Wednesday, scored seven of Auburn’s points in a row early in the second half, sparking a 16-4 Tigers run that gave them their first lead of the game at 36-35 with just over 12 minutes to play.
But Kentucky guards Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison made a few tough shots in a row at the rim, enough to put the Wildcats over the top. After Aaron Harrison made a layup with 4:13 to play, Kentucky led 50-42, and the Tigers would get no closer than six points after that.
Kentucky and Auburn both struggled from the field in the field half, but the Wildcats’ physical play produced enough free-throw attempts to boost them to a 28-22 halftime lead.
The Wildcats did not make a field goal in the final seven minutes of the half, missing its final 10 shots. Of those 10 attempts, six were at the rim — either lay-ups or put-back attempts.
Still, Kentucky attacked the basket and was 5 of 8 from the free-throw line in that span.
Auburn wasn’t much better in that span. The Tigers scored on a put-back by center Matthew Atewe with 4:15 to go to make the score 23-22, and the Tigers would not score for the rest of the half.
Kentucky never trailed in the first half and led by as many as 10 points at 18-8 with about 12 minutes to play, but Auburn scored eight straight points to bring the score back within a single possession.
NOTES: C Dakari Johnson started for the fourth game in a row in place of Willie Cauley-Stein, meaning Kentucky has used a starting lineup of five freshmen for the third game in a row. Coach John Calipari has started five freshmen in eight of Kentucky’s 24 games this season. … Kentucky has now won 16 games in a row and 30 of its last 31 over Auburn. The Tigers’ last win in the series was Jan. 11, 2000. … Auburn’s loss snapped its three-game winning streak.
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