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Tigers hang tough but fall to UK

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Auburn’s basketball team wouldn’t let Kentucky run away this time, but the Tigers didn’t have enough to break through in a rought and tumble game at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky outlasted Auburn on Saturday in a physical game.

With Chris Denson scoring 15 points, Noel Johnson 12 on four 3-pointers and Shaquille Johnson 10, the Tigers kept Kentucky in sight for most of the game before falling 72-62. Three weeks ago, they lost in a 75-53 blowout at Auburn Arena.

Auburn has lost 15 straight and 29 out of 30 to Kentucky. It has not won at Rupp Arena since 1988.

Auburn coach Tony Barbee said his team came to play Saturday.

“I am proud of the guys,” Barbee said. “They executed the game plan that we put in as coaches to a tee. We had our chances. We missed way too many open shots, way too many shots at the basket, committed way too many silly fouls to put them in the one-and-one situation early in both halves.

“We didn’t rebound close what you need to rebound in this game in order to win. We gave up, just offhand, five minimum free throw blockout rebounds. You are not beating this Kentucky team, whether it is in the playground or in Rupp (doing that).”

Auburn got off to a quick start with a pair of 3-pointers by Allen Payne and Noel Johnson and a Rob Chubb layup gave the Tigers a 10-6 lead 3:30 into the game. Kentucky answered with an 11-2 run to take a 20-14 lead with 10:31 left. A pair of Noel Johnson treys sandwiched between a Chubb free throw regained the lead for Auburn at 21-20 with 9:13. The Wildcats came right back with seven straight to go up 27-21.

Sullivan’s second 3-pointer with 26 seconds left closed to the Tigers to within 37-31 at the half with 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range after going 0-of-15 from 3 in the Jan. 19 loss to Kentucky in Auburn.

The Tigers closed to within 41-38 on a Denson layup, but the Wildcats scored six straight for a 47-38 edge with 13:13 to play. The Cats extended it to 54-42 on a Kyle Wiltjer 3 at 10:30. Kentucky increased its lead to as mucj as 66-50 with 4:07 left, but the Tigers closed to within 10 but not any closer.

Auburn fell to 9-14 overall, 3-7 in the SEC while Kentucky improved to 17-6 and 8-2.

The two teams shot nearly identical percentages from the field, Auburn 22-of-51 (.431) and Kentucky 20-of-46 (.435). The Tigers went 7-of-13 from 3-point range while the Wildcats were 6-fo21 (.286).

Kentucky had the edge at the foul line 26-of-38 to 11-of-17. The Wildcats outrebounded the Tigers 35-29.

Auburn opens a three-game home stand against Arkansas on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.

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