Tigers Fall Because Their Shots Won't

The basketball Tigers gave ninth-ranked Kentucky a tough test, but the Wildcats pulled away late for the victory.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn was knee deep in a very physical battle with the ninth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats and were only down two points with four minutes remaining.

However, the shots just wouldn't fall for the home team over the final minutes of the game and the Tigers fell to the Wildcats 68-59 in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

"It was a bang-up game and they got the edge," Auburn Coach Cliff Ellis said. "They got just a few more rebounds and a few more shots around the paint. They just overpowered us. They are very good. We had a shot. I am disappointed that we didn't get it, but I see how Kentucky wins."

It seemed like the stars were not aligned properly on Saturday for the Tigers to pull off the upset as Auburn, which drops to 13-10 overall and 4-8 in SEC play, just couldn't find the range in the second half as the Tigers shot 26.7 percent from the floor and were 1-11 from behind the three-point line in the final 20 minutes.

Ian Young, who lead the Tigers in scoring wioth 13 points, takes it to the hole.

"Auburn, they had some good looks there, I thought, late in the second half," Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith said. "They just couldn't get them to go down."

Auburn junior forward Brandon Robinson said that he felt like it was just a mental thing late in the game. "Our team just got down on their self," he said. "We got down, kind of lost our confidence and kind of lost our composure. Kentucky did good, stayed with the offense, stayed together and played as a team."

After taking a 34-33 edge into the half the Tigers came out quickly in the second half as Quinnel Brown hit a jumper with 19:09 remaining then stole a Kentucky pass and dished out an assist to Nathan Watson to put the Tigers up 38-33 with 18:56 remaining.

Then following a Kyle Davis put back of a Lewis Monroe layup to give the Tigers their last lead at 40-38, Auburn went cold from the floor. Over the next six minutes the Tigers did not score a point and Kentucky pulled out to a 46-40 lead.

The Tigers battled back to tie the game at 49 on a Brown three-pointer with 6:46 remaining, but Kelenna Azubukie answered right back on UK's next possession with a three of his own that gave UK a lead it would never relinquish.

Then with 4:09 remaining the Tigers pulled to within two on a Robinson free throw, but then Auburn went cold again with two turnovers and four missed shots over the next 2:30. And Kentucky took advantage with some key shots, including a Gerald Fitch three-pointer with 58 seconds remaining to give UK a 64-55 lead and seal the victory.

A couple of big keys were the boards and in the paint. Kentucky won both of those battles. The Wildcats out-rebounded Auburn 40 to 35 and outscored the Tigers 30 to 22 in the paint.

"I just thought their inside game got an extra rebound or two and made a play here or there," Ellis said. "I thought we tried to power inside and we missed a lot of shots around the basket. We got good looks. Just missed some shots around the basket.

"We got them playing the way we feel the most comfortable playing," the Tigers' coach added. "They just contained us well."

UK's Smith also said the he thought the battle on the boards played a big role in his team's victory. "We were really concerned about Auburn and their rebounding and for us to win the board battle was a real plus for us," Smith noted. "It is something we worked extremely hard on and we knew we would have to do a good job there in order to compete and win this game."

For the game Kentucky, which moves to 19-4 overall and 8-3 in the conference, shot 44.9 percent from the floor, 30.8 percent from three-point land and hit 20 of its 28 free throws. Auburn shot 33.9 percent from the field, 26.1 percent from behind the arc and only hit 15 of its 25 free throws.

Nathan Watson scored seven points and pulled down five rebounds for the Tigers on Saturday.

Ellis said that his team's loss was certainly a very hard fought defeat. "I'm not disappointed in our team's effort," he said. "We played a great team. We were hoping to win and build even some more momentum, but Kentucky is very good."

For the Tigers, Ian Young led the way with 13 points, only two of which came in the second half. Robinson added ten points and four rebounds and Brown also dropped in ten points, three boards and two assists. Marco Killingsworth also added eight points and eight rebounds despite being double-teamed and trapped much of the day.

For Kentucky, Fitch was huge in his second game back from a finger injury. The senior guard scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds in 28 minutes of play. Erick Daniels did the damage inside for the Wildcats as he dropped in 15 points, grabbed five boards and dished out three assists.

Point guard Cliff Hawkins also added ten points to the Wildcats' victory

Despite a tough loss at home the Tigers are finally looking more like the team that many people expected them to be this season and Robinson said neither he nor his teammates are planning on giving up on the rest of this season.

"We have got four more games left," he said "We just can't let one game stop us. Like I said, we came out played against Ole Miss, Georgia, LSU and now Kentucky. I think those four games are four of the best games we have played as a team. So, we are not going to get down on this loss."

The Tigers will return to action Tuesday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum when Alabama comes to town. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN and the tip-off is set for 8 p.m.

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