No. 14 Auburn lost in a highly contested battle against No.12 Kentucky 82-80 Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out and rowdy Auburn Arena.
“It was a great environment tonight,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “I appreciate the energy Auburn Arena had and I know our kids appreciated it too.”
The first half was a defensive battle, with both teams shooting less than 35 percent from 3-point range. Kentucky scored 12 points off seven Auburn turnovers to hold the 35-27 advantage at halftime.
The second half started off slow for the Tigers, as the Wildcats jumped out to a 10-2 run, creating their biggest lead of the game at 16 points.
Bryce Brown caught fire for Auburn, scoring 25 of his 28 points while shooting 7-7 (including five threes) in the second half to pull Auburn within two.
A Jared Harper 3-pointer gave Auburn a brief 80-79 lead with 32 seconds left, but free throws from Kentucky sealed the win for the Wildcats.
“We sent them to the free throw line too much,” said Pearl. “This is the fourth straight SEC game where we’ve had a deficit when it came to getting to the foul line. We’ve got to be more physical and find ways to finish better.”
The Tigers had four players in double figures, led by Brown’s 28 points. Harper had 17 points and six assists, Chuma Okeke had 11 points, and Malik Dunbar finished with 10 points.
Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro each finished with 20 points in the game for the Wildcats.
Next up for Auburn (13-4, 2-2 in SEC) is a trip to Columbia Tuesday to face off against South Carolina. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., and the game can be seen on SEC Network.