Immanuel Quickley matched his season-high of 23 points, but it wasn’t enough for No. 13 Kentucky, who dropped a sluggish 75-66 contest to No. 17 Auburn. Five Wildcats ended with four or more fouls in their second conference loss.
The Cats got off to a hot start, making their first three shots on the way to a 9-2 lead. But they took a trip to the Arctic after, going 0-for-8 with multiple turnovers across the next 8:31. The futile stretch allowed Auburn to take a 14-12 margin into the second media timeout.
The Tigers returned the favor by going 6:31 without a make, and Kentucky capitalized; albeit, not as much as it would have hoped, scoring just seven points during the drought. The schools were neck-and-neck to end the first half as Danjel Purifoy knocked down a three to put Auburn up two. Tyrese Maxey answered with a trey of his own just before the buzzer, giving Kentucky a 35-34 advantage at the break. The two teams combined for 34 free throws in the first half, slowing it immensely.
Purifoy – who shot just 31% from deep on the season coming in – traded threes with Quickley to open the second half. Shortly after, fouls again began to have a big impact. Scoring crawled, with a combined 16 points from 14:16 to 6:39. An Isaac Okoro three-pointer made it 54 apiece at that time. Ashton Hagans picked up his fourth with 14:41 left, and EJ Montgomery did the same at the 9:31 mark.
Quickley’s fourth foul came with 5:16 remaining, and the Tigers went up 59-56 after two free throws from Okoro. Maxey scored four in a row to put the Wildcats ahead by one, but Purifoy provided from behind the arc once more, making it 62-60 Auburn. Kentucky would not see the lead again.
Samir Doughty had 16 of the first 21 points for the Tigers (19-2, 6-2 SEC), with nearly half of those coming from the line. He finished with 23, going 14-of-15 from the stripe. Okoro added 14, and Purifoy dropped 11.
Maxey poured in 22 for Kentucky (16-5, 6-2 SEC), forming a lethal tandem with Quickley that kept the Cats in the game. Hagans had just five points and three assists, fouling out in 21 minutes.
Austin Wiley won the battle of the bigs against Nick Richards, recording his eighth double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Richards ended with seven of each. The other Wildcat forwards combined for only six points and seven rebounds.
There were 68 free throws attempted in the game, 44 of which were for the Tigers. Some will point to that disparity as the reason for the loss, but that’s far from the sole contributor. Auburn outrebounded Kentucky 42-28 – including 17-6 offensively – which fueled a 17-5 advantage in second chance points. The Wildcats also had 12 turnovers, five more than the Tigers.
Auburn gets the opportunity to build off its win Tuesday on the road versus Arkansas in what should be another competitive game. Kentucky returns to Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center the same night to play Mississippi State. Tip is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN and the ESPN app.