T.J. Dunans scored a career-high 23 points for Auburn in a hard-fought 92-72 loss at No. 6 Kentucky in sold out Rupp Arena on Saturday.
Auburn used a 12-2 run that included part of 12 straight Auburn points by Dunans followed by a Horace Spencer layup to cut a 14-point Kentucky lead to 60-56 with 12:26 to go.
"Kentucky has a great team and play really well together," said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. "They are tremendous in transition, and they keep getting better and play well together.
"We competed. We didn't challenge Kentucky, but we competed. We have a good young team, and we will keep getting better. We beat Texas Tech. We beat UConn. We beat Oklahoma. We are getting close."
The Tigers, who committed 31 fouls to 18, missed six of their first seven foul shots in the second half and finished 5-of-15 for the game. The Wildcats went 17-of-32 from the free throw line.
"I felt like we fouled them too much," said Pearl. "They got in the bonus in the second half in five minutes and made it very difficult for us to get back in the game. Fouls are errors. You can't miss 10 free throws and expect to put a scare into them."
Mustapha Heron, who scored double figures in his 17th straight game to open the season with 11 points, drained a 3 from the left wing as the Tigers closed to within 70-64 and then drew a fifth foul on De'Aaron Fox, who came in averaging 16.7 points, seventh in the SEC with 7:23 left.
"I think our Auburn fans got excited in the second half and recognized that our team is getting better, and our team is competing," Pearl said.
There were nine lead changes in the first five minutes as Auburn jumped out to an early 13-10 lead on an Anfernee McLemore layup.
It was a shootout for most of the opening period as both teams were shooting over 60 percent from the floor while Kentucky made seven of its first nine 3-pointers and Auburn four of its first seven.
A 6-0 Auburn run cut the Wildcat lead to 37-30 with 5:31 left, but Kentucky pushed it back out to a 51-39 lead at the half.
The Tigers finished shooting 47 percent from the floor, 56.3 percent (9-of-17) from 3-point range while the Wildcats were 56 percent from the field and 58 percent (11-of-19) behind the arc.
Auburn fell to 11-6, 1-4 in the SEC while Kentucky improved to 15-2, 5-0.
Kentucky was led by the SEC's scoring leader, Malik Monk's 24 points on 4-of-8 treys and six assists and Bam Adebayo's 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Auburn plays host to LSU on Wednesday at 7:30 pm CT in Auburn Arena on the SEC Network.