After an Auburn (15-6, 2-3 SEC) basket brought the Tigers within one, sophomore point guard Carly Ormerod (Louisville, Ky.) had a basket and Alcius followed with a pair of free-throws to give the Cats a five-point advantage, 65-60, with 29 ticks left. The Tigers whittled their deficit down to three, but Humphrey rebounded a rare missed free-throw by senior guard Jenny Pfeiffer (North Vernon, Ind.) and followed with a put-back as the Cats hung on for the win.
"This game could have gone either way today," UK Coach Mickie DeMoss said. "We just held on down the stretch and they had to foul. I was pleased with the way we maintained our poise down the stretch. To win in this manner is really big - we needed this. This group has never beaten Auburn, and for the seniors, this was their last chance. We were really focused from the tip today and that was good to see. We haven't been able to put two good halves together recently and I thought we did that tonight."
Humphrey, who tied her career-high with 38 minutes played, became just the seventh Wildcat in school history to log 20 or more rebounds in a single game, and also moved into sole possession of third place on UK's all-time career rebounding list. The Kentucky post presence proved a key against a taller Auburn squad that features eight players 6-foot or taller. Kentucky out-scored the Tigers 52-36 in points in the paint as Elliott and Humphrey combined for 30 points and 26 rebounds.
"I have to give Lanky so much credit," DeMoss said. "She was really the workhorse tonight - she played 38 minutes. She definitely had the toughest assignment tonight and she came down with 20 rebounds and had 16 points. I was pleased with her effort and, really, the effort I saw from our whole team."
With the team's second-leading scorer Samantha Mahoney (Detroit) held to just five points in the game, a number of Wildcats stepped up to play big roles. Elliott finished with 14 points, while Ormerod, who played the entire 40 minutes, had 15 points and five rebounds. Junior guard Chante' Bowman (Detroit) finished with five points and a career-high nine assists.
"They were probably keying on [Mahoney] today and that makes it tough," DeMoss said. "It was nice to see others step up. Carly Ormerod did a good job and Nastassia Alcius played some really good minutes for us off the bench. That's what we've been needing to happen - for others to step up."
The Wildcats shot 49.2 percent (31-of-63) from the floor in the game – their second-highest shooting percentage of the season, while limiting the Tigers to just 38.7 (24-of-62) from the floor. Kentucky won the rebound battle by nine (43-35) – its largest in a league contest this season. The game featured 15 lead changes and four ties.
The Wildcats broke out to a 12-4 advantage at the 14:03 mark of the first half after breaking a 4-4 tie with an 8-0 run that included four points from Humphrey. Auburn missed nine of its first 11 shots to begin the game. The Tigers rallied over the next 1:59 with a 6-0 run of their own to pull within two, 12-10. After both teams went cold for nearly three minutes, the Wildcats used an 11-0 run – the last seven points were scored by Ormerod – to take a 23-10 lead with 6:34 remaining. Kentucky held Auburn scoreless for 5:03 during that run. The Tigers tried several times to cut into the UK deficit, outscoring UK 8-4 in the final three minutes prior to intermission.
Kentucky took a 31-24 advantage into the locker room at halftime before Auburn stormed out of the locker room with four consecutive points to pull within three, 31-28. Kentucky then scored five straight to extend its lead back out to eight, 36-28, with 18:01 remaining. From there, the Tigers went on an 11-2 run to take their first lead of the second half at 39-38. The two teams traded baskets before back-to-back hoops by Whitney Boddie and DeWanna Bonner gave the Tigers a 47-44 lead with 12:05 left in the game. It was a see-saw battle the rest of the game until the Cats' late charge.
Bonner led the Tigers with a game-high 23 points, while Boddie followed with 19.
Kentucky returns to action Thursday, Jan. 25, when it plays host to Mississippi State in Rupp Arena. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. EST and the game will be carried live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with Neil Price.