Jan. 16, 2010
AUBURN - Down by 19 points with less than two minutes left in the first half, Auburn tied it at 60 and DeWayne Reed missed a game-tying 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to allow No. 2 Kentucky to hold on for a 72-67 victory over Auburn in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum.
Reed scored a game-high 19 points and dished out six assists while Frankie Sullivan added 15 points on 3-of-5 3-point shooting in only 22 minutes after being saddled with foul trouble. Lucas Hargrove added 10 for the Tigers before an overflow crowd of 11,669.
"It was a great look," said Reed of his game-tying attempt. "I just had to put it in, but unfortunately it didn't go."
Kentucky's John Wall sank a pair of free throws with nine seconds left to allow the Wildcats to win their 18th straight game to open the season for their third best start in history and best since 1965-66.
Reed sank back-to-back 3s as Auburn (9-9, 0-3) closed to within 39-26 at halftime. The Tigers, who outscored the Wildcats 40-21 to tie it at 60 on Sullivan 3-pointer with 8:24 remaining, closed to within 46-41 on Hargrove's trey five minutes into the second half.
It was a dogfight from that point on.
"I told the team that we played the second half as well as we*ve played all year, and hopefully we can build on that," said Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "We can get some confidence from this game. I don*t think that we have enough confidence on this team. We were better defensively in the second half, too, executing the game plan like we did. We really took them out of the flow so hopefully it gives the kids some confidence. We need confidence.
"The crowd was great. I wish we could have that more. It gives you energy, and they play better. That was really big. I know the kids, players and the coaches really appreciated the number of Auburn people who came out to watch the game today."
Kentucky (18-0, 3-0) pushed its lead back to 50-41 a minute later, but Auburn kept chipping away and an Andre Malone steal led to a Reed layup to bring the Tigers to within 53-52 with 10:42 remaining. Darius Miller missed a 3-pointer on the Wildcats' next possession, and the Tigers had a chance to take their first lead of the game, but Reed walked the ball up the court and was whistled for a 10 second violation.
Kentucky quickly answered with a DeAndre Liggins 3-pointer from the corner and a pair of Wall free throws to go back up by six. A Sullivan layup, Tay Waller 3-pointer closed the Tigers back to within 58-57.
After Sullivan's trey tied it at 60, Liggins* layup gave the Wildcats the lead for good but the margin was never more than six points the rest of the way. Hargrove's fall-a-way 10-footer closed Auburn to within 64-62 with 4:34 to play while a pair of Reed free throws brought Auburn to within 70-67 with 1:09 left.
"We wanted to fight through and play a whole game," said Reed. *We had a lot of fans. We wanted to play with them. They're the No. 2 team in the country, and we didn't want to play bad. We just have to fight through."
Eric Bledsoe missed a 3-pointer on Kentucky's next possession with 39 seconds remaining to give Auburn a shot to tie it. Brendon Knox*s shot in the lane was blocked out of bounds by DeMarcus Cousins with 19 seconds to go to set up the in-bounds play that led to Reed's missed game-tying 3-pointer.
Cousins led Kentucky with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Wall and Bledsoe had 13 points apiece and Patrick Patterson 12 points. Auburn forced National Player of the Year candidate Wall into seven turnovers, including six in the second half.
Auburn shot 55.2 percent from the field in the second half to outscore Kentucky 41-33 even though the Wildcats shot 52.4 percent. For the game, Kentucky outshot Auburn 51.2 percent to 41.7 percent, but the Tigers were 9-of-24 (.375) from 3-point range compared to the Wildcats' 5-of-14 (.357).
Kentucky enjoyed a huge disparity at the free throw line, going 23-of-35, including 16-of-27 in the first half alone. Auburn was 8-of-14 for the game from the foul line. The Tigers only committed 12 turnovers while forcing 16 and were only outscored in the paint by the massive Wildcats 32-30 and outrebounded 34-30.
"It's like an imaginary sixth man," said Sullivan of the Tigers' crowd support. "When we go on the road, we see that a lot of times. Our fans don't support us like that all the time. I wish they would. It brings a lot of energy. It turns me on. I'm ready to play every game, but the crowd just gives you a boost like an energy drink. Hopefully, they come out more, we really need it."
Auburn plays at LSU (9-7, 0-2) on Wednesday at 7 pm Central in the Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La. LSU plays at Florida later Saturday night. The Tigers then play at Vanderbilt on Saturday before coming home to play both Ole Miss on Jan. 28 and Alabama on Jan.