Scrappy Tigers Push Kentucky

Auburn's upset bid vs. Kentucky fell short as the visitors pulled away late in the game.

Auburn, Ala.--Kentucky's three-point shooting and defensive toughness in the closing minutes carried the second-ranked Wildcats to a 68-53 SEC basketball victory in a game the Tigers had a chance to win until late in the contest.

The Wildcats hit 7-20 treys while Auburn was just 1-12 from three point range. Kentucky also helped its cause by just turning the ball over eight times, seven less than the Tigers.

The Wildcats, the number one shot blocking team in the country at better than nine per game, didn't get their average with seven, but those seven rejections helped the visitors pull away down the stretch.

"You all know this was a couple of baskets game and they could have beat us," Kentucky coach John Calipari said after his Wildcats improved to 16-1 overall and 2-0 in the SEC.

Calipari said he was impressed with how the Tigers played. "They beat us all to balls," he said. "They wanted it worse than we did. They played with a desire we didn't have."

However, Calipari admitted his Wildcats had a strong finish. "I did like how we executed down the stretch," he said.

The crowd of 9,121 tried to give the Tigers a homecourt advantage on Wednesday night.

The game was close most of the night. Auburn's last lead was 47-45 with 10:52 to play on a pair of free throws by Rob Chubb. The Wildcats took the lead for good with 8:02 on a layup by point guard Marquis Teague.

Auburn trailed 51-49 with 5:38 left on a layup by Varez Ward, but the Tigers were outscored 19-4 the rest of the game as they lost their shooting touch.

"You have got Tony credit," Calipari said of his former player, Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. "He had an unbelievable game plan. He always has every time I play him."

Chubb led the Tigers with a team-high 14 points and was also Auburn's leading rebounder with eight. Chris Denson scored 12 points for the Tigers.

Kentucky got 14 points from Anthony Davis, who led the Wildcats on the boards with six rebounds. Doron Lamb also scored 14 while Terrence Jones and Teague chipped in with 12 apiece.

Senior Darius Miller's three-pointer with 3:29 left put the Wildcats up 57-49. On the next possession Denson missed the front end of a one-and-one and that was it for Auburn's chances of pulling off the upset.

Auburn fell to 10-6 overall with the loss and 0-2 in the SEC.

Lamb said the Wildcats played good basketball down the stretch. "We stuck together really well as a team and we ran our offense and executed," he said, explaining how the Wildcats were able to pull away in the closing minutes.

Auburn out-rebounded Kentucky 35-29 and shot 41.2 percent from the field compared to 40.4 percent for the Wildcats. Auburn was 10-12 at the foul line while Kentucky hit 15-18.

Calipari said he was impressed with Auburn's effort. "At one point I looked at the staff and said, ‘This has nothing to do with X's and O's.' Then we stepped up."

Barbee said the Tigers out-hustled the Wildcats for most of the game, but not all the way. "For the first three quarters of the game, but obviously that isn't good enough against a team like Kentucky."

The Auburn coach said he saw improvement over his team's previous performances. "It is a positive step. There are a lot of positives we will take from this. We have to go to the next level. Losing isn't good enough for me."

Chris Denson drives to the basket on Wednesday night at the Auburn Arena.

Denson, a sophomore guard for the Tigers, credited the Wildcats for stepping up at crunch time. "Kentucky is a good team. It all came down to knocking down clutch shots. Miller and Lamb hit threes and we couldn't convert."

Chubb said he saw improvement from his team. "It shows us the direction we need to be moving. The last two games, away games, we completely dropped the ball. We just weren't playing."

Praise For Chubb: Kentucky's Davis, a candidate for player of the year in the SEC, had good things to say about opposing center Rob Chubb. "He was definitely tough--a great ball player. He was physically strong." The Wildcats double-teamed Chubb in the second half.

Starting Lineup: Chris Denson, Adrian Forbes, Varez Ward, Rob Chubb and Kenny Gabriel started for the Tigers.

At the Half: The Wildcats led 32-28 despite being outshot from the field 48.7 percent (13-28 field goals) to 40.7 percent (11-27). Kentucky's lead came from hitting 5-12 threes while Auburn was 0-4 on threes. Kentucky was 5-7 at the foul line while the Tigers made 2-3.

Auburn held a 21-11 rebounding advantage at intermission, but turned the ball over nine times compared to just four for the Wildcats.

Chubb led Auburn in scoring at the break with 10 points while four players had six points apiece to lead the Wildcats.

Lots of Wins: Kentucky has more college basketball victories than any other Division I programs with 2,068.

Significant Number: The Wildcats are 62-1 under Coach John Calipari when holding opponents to 67 or fewer points.

Coach And Pupil: Calipari said that he doesn't enjoy playing Barbee's teams because of his close relationship with his former player, noting he hopes the two meet no more than once per season. He added that if his team had lost with how well Barbee's played, he would have been "ecstatic" for the Auburn coach.

"He is a terrific coach, he is a terrific recruiter, he is not afraid to coach, he is not afraid to teach," Calipari added. "He is somebody I care about and love."

Up Next: The Tigers will play their second SEC home game of the season at 12:30 p.m. Saturday as Ole Miss visits Auburn Arena.

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