Auburn tightened its hold on first place in the Southeastern Conference with a 76-66 victory over Kentucky on Wednesday night at Auburn.
Kentucky (17-9, 6-7 SEC) held a 55-51 lead with 10:21 remaining, but a 17-6 spurt put the 10th-ranked Tigers (23-3, 11-2) in control at 68-61 with 3:57 to play.
Kentucky has now lost four straight games, a first in the John Calipari era and the first time that has happened since the 2009 NIT season in Billy Gillispie’s final year.
Auburn placed four players in double figures, led by sophomore guard Jared Harper and junior guard Bryce Brown with 18 apiece. Sophomore forward Anfernee McLemore added 13 points and 11 rebounds and sophomore guard Mustapha Heron had 11 points.
As a team, Auburn shot 36.7 percent and made eight 3-pointers. The Tigers had 34 rebounds, 12 assists and seven turnovers.
Kentucky got 19 points from freshman forward Kevin Knox. Freshman forward PJ Washington added 13 as the only two players to score in double figures.
As a team, UK shot 46 percent, but only 21 percent from 3-point range on 3-of-14. They had 36 rebounds, nine assists and 14 turnovers.
Auburn grabbed a 39-33 first-half lead despite opening ice cold from the field. At one point, the Tigers led 11-10 while shooting only 9 percent. By the end of the half, Auburn was up to 30 percent shooting, 35 percent from 3-point range.
Murray topped Auburn with six points and six rebounds. The Tigers had 16 rebounds, seven assists and just one turnover.
Knox paced Kentucky with 12 points followed by Washington with seven. Jarred Vanderbilt had eight rebounds in 12 minutes.
As a team, UK shot 46.4 percent and had 22 rebounds but still trailed at the half thanks to eight turnovers.
Auburn entered the game as the top scoring team in the SEC at 85.5 points per game, the second highest scoring team in school history. The Tigers were also tops in margin of victory at 13 points. Auburn fell below those numbers slightly, but still won by double figures.
One stat that has been foolproof for determining Kentucky’s success and failure this season was scoring droughts. Heading into Wednesday, UK had eight games with stretches of five minutes or more without scoring a point. They were 0-8. By contrast, Kentucky was 17-0 when avoiding the long drought.
Against Auburn, Kentucky avoided the zero-points drought, but did go the final 5:01 with no field goals. They had five free throws during that stretch.
Both teams are back in action on Saturday. Kentucky returns home to host Alabama, while Auburn travels to South Carolina.
--Field Level Media