Kentucky’s bid for a third straight SEC road win came up short on Saturday as Auburn went 33-of-44 from the free line to beat the Wildcats 75-66 at Auburn Arena.
In addition to facing a hostile crowd, the Wildcats battled foul trouble, turnovers and ineffective post play as Kentucky’s front line of Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery were held to just nine total points as Richards, Kentucky’s leading scorer, finished with seven points and seven rebounds, while Montgomery finished with just a single basket.
Kentucky’s half-court offense struggled with numerous empty possessions as point guard Ashton Hagans played only 21 minutes due to foul trouble and finished with five points, three assists and six turnovers. Fortunately, the Cats did find an offensive spark in Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey who finished with 23 and 22 points, respectively, to give UK a fighting chance over the game’s final six minutes.
The most glaring weakness in the loss was Kentucky’s inability to rebound as a physical Auburn team won the battle of the boards (42-28) that included 17 offensive rebounds and numerous second chance points.
Kentucky had a five point lead (54-49) at the 8:53 mark on a Richards dunk before Auburn answered with a dunk of its own and a three-pointer to tie the game at 54-all. Maxey would ultimately hit two free throws for Kentucky’s final lead of the game as the Cats went ahead 60-59 with 4:11 remaining.
From that point, Auburn bounced back to hit a three-pointer and a free throw after Hagans fouled out with 3:36 remaining to take a 63-60 advantage. Two more Auburn free throws extended the lead to 65-60 before Quickley scored to cut the deficit to 65-62.
No. 17-ranked Auburn then broke the game open on a three-pointer with 2:33 left to take a 68-62 lead and connected on five of its final six free throws to seal the victory.
Kentucky, currently ranked 13th, falls to 16-5 (6-2 in the SEC) and drops two back of conference leader LSU who beat Ole Miss on Saturday to maintain a perfect 8-0 conference record. The Wildcats return home on Tuesday night with a 9:00 pm ET tip on ESPN against Mississippi State.
After the game, UK Coach John Calipari and select players met with the media to talk about the Cats second conference loss of the season, courtesy of UK Athletics.