Estill fuels Cats' win over Auburn

Kentucky's Marquis Estill matched his season high with 21 points Tuesday in a 69-62 win over Auburn...

AUBURN, Ala.  --- Marquis Estill answered his team's call for an inside presence Tuesday against the Southeastern Conference's top shot-blocking team, delivering a game-high 21 points off the bench as No. 8 Kentucky downed Auburn 69-62.

Estill, a junior center, was 8-for-12 from the field, 4-for-4 at the line and added a 3-pointer to the impressive mix to lead the Wildcats (13-4, 3-2 SEC).

Keith Bogans slammed in two of his 13 points. (AP - Dave Martin)

"Marquis was a big positive for us tonight," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "He gave us that really strong inside presence we need."

"I just wanted to outwork them and muscle them around. The gameplan was to get the ball inside, pound it inside and get some easy baskets. I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight," said Estill, who has hit 16 of his last 23 from the field and is now shooting a team-high 67 percent (72 of 107) on the season.

Estill's big effort helped overcome an otherwise sloppy offensive performance by Kentucky. The Cats shot 43 percent from the field, missed 17 of 33 free throws and turned the ball over 14 times. Star forward Tayshaun Prince managed only nine points on 2-for-8 shooting from the field, and they were also outrebounded 45-38.

Defense, however, was as strong as ever as UK held the Tigers to 35 percent from the field and 21 percent (5 of 23) from 3-point range. The Cats also forced 18 turnovers.

"I hate that we got outrebounded the way we did tonight," said Smith, "but I thought we defended them awfully well. To hold them to 35 percent and 21 percent from 3, that's really good. That's the one area we can be consistent, and we're starting to play our defense the right way."

Kentucky jumped out to a 14-7 lead as Estill scored nine straight points after Jules Camara left the game with two fouls in the first three minutes of action.

Auburn came back to tie, though, on the strong play of its own Marquis, junior guard Marquis Daniels. He scored nine straight points to pull the Tigers into a 20-20 tie with 9:13 left in the first half.

The Tigers led 26-24 on Marco Killingsworth's inside basket at the 7:01 mark, but it proved to be their last advantage of the night. Kentucky responded with a 13-4 run to close the half, highlighted by Gerald Fitch's four-point play and a Keith Bogans 3-pointer. Bogans and Fitch were the only other Cats in double figures on the night with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Consecutive treys by reserve guard Lincoln Glass helped Auburn trim the lead to 39-36 early in the second half, but a 11-0 spurt by the Cats gave them their biggest lead of the game. Again, Estill was in the middle of the key stretch, scoring six straight points on an inside move and four free throws.

Auburn missed 14 of its first 16 shots to start the second half and could never fully recover. Adam Harrington's 3-pointer cut the margin to 54-50 with 6:24 left, but Prince answered with one of his own to again give UK a relatively comfortable margin in the defensive struggle.

Kentucky held on for the win despite hitting only eight of 20 free throws in the final five minutes.

"Obviously, we didn't finish the game the way we would like to," Smith said. "Our free throw shooting was our achillies heel, but we played with some poise on the road, where it's tough. Most importantly, it's a win."

Daniels led Auburn with 16 points and 11 rebounds, but managed only a single point in the second half after UK switched the 6-foot-9 Prince and 6-3 Fitch primarily to him. Early on, the Tigers' point guard had used his 6-6 frame to score inside against the Cats' 6-1 Cliff Hawkins.

"We used some longer guys on him in Tayshaun and Gerald," Smith said. "I thought he was able to shoot over (Hawkins) without being bothered too much."

Auburn (9-8, 1-5) also got 13 points from Killingsworth.

Kentucky has won 16 of the last 17 against the Tigers and leads the all-time series 75-17.

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