EditorsNote: fixes typo in first graph
No. 12 Kentucky had to fight off a furious comeback on the road at No. 14 Auburn on Saturday to escape with an 82-80 win.
Down 17 points with 17 minutes to play, the Tigers roared back with a desperate barrage of 3-pointers to take an 80-79 lead with 30.9 seconds to play. But Kentucky’s Tyler Herro hit two free throws with 25 seconds remaining to put the Cats back on top, and Immanuel Quickley added another free throw to cement the win.
Jared Harper missed a layup with six seconds left while trailing 81-80, and Samir Doughty missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Wildcats improve to 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the SEC. Auburn fell to 13-4 and 2-2 in the conference.
Keldon Johnson and Herro paced Kentucky with 20 points each, while Reid Travis added 17. Bryce Brown paced Auburn with 28 points, 25 of them coming in the second half. Harper added 17 points, and Chuma Okeke had 11.
Auburn was without the services of Austin Wiley due to a leg injury.
Kentucky looked like it was going to pull away for the easy win after hitting nine of its first 11 shots to open the second half, keyed by Johnson and Herro. Johnson’s outburst came on the heels of his scoreless effort in a win over Georgia on Tuesday.
As a team, UK hit 26 of 48 shots from the field for 54.2 percent, including 6 of 15 from behind the 3-point line.
Auburn hit 26 of 56 attempts from the field for 46.4 percent and 13 of 30 from deep for 43.3 percent. The Tigers connected on 8 of 14 3-point tries in the second half.
Kentucky overcame its penchant for horrible starts by jumping out to an 8-4 lead on the strength of five points by Travis. But neither team played exceptionally well on offense in that half, with the Cats hitting 44 percent from the field (12 of 27) and the Tigers 33 percent (9 of 27).
Kentucky began to find the range late in the half, however, and a 9-0 run fueled by 3-pointers by Johnson and Herro gave the Wildcats a 35-27 lead at the break.
Johnson had 11 points before the break for Kentucky, while Harper led Auburn with nine points. The Wildcats outrebounded the Tigers 21-16 in the half, with Travis grabbing six for UK and Horace Spencer five for Auburn.
Kentucky next plays at home against Mississippi State on Tuesday. Auburn will play at South Carolina the same night.
—Field Level Media