Chris Denson scored 15 points, Noel Johnson 12 on four 3-pointers and Shaquille Johnson 10 points for Auburn in a 72-62 loss at Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Saturday. Kyle Wiltjer had 14 points for the Wildcats while Nerlens Noel added 10 points, 12 rebounds and one block.
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.
"I am proud of the guys," said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. "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 block out rebounds. You are not beating this Kentucky team whether it is in the playground or in Rupp."
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 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 at 8 pm Central in Auburn Arena on CSS.