Short-Handed Wildcats Take Down Auburn, 66-63

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- The Kentucky Wildcats survived the battle of teams whittled down to little more than their starting lineups.

Patrick Patterson hit 3-of-4 free throws over the final 45 seconds and Kentucky shot a season-high 67 percent to hold on for a 66-63 win over Auburn on Wednesday night, despite the absence of star guard Ramel Bradley.

The Wildcats (11-9, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) sorely missed him when Auburn started aggressively trapping on defense and forcing mistakes to cut down a 10-point lead over the final six minutes. They committed 24 turnovers.

"If you play the way we did (in the SEC), you usually lose," Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said. "We played pretty ugly tonight but pulled it together so I am happy about that. It's no easy task to do something like that."

The Tigers (12-9, 2-6) played only six players while Kentucky played a seventh for just three minutes of the game between two injury-depleted teams.

Joe Crawford scored 20 points and Patterson had 19 points and eight rebounds for Kentucky, which held on for a fourth consecutive SEC win.

Bradley missed the game with a concussion sustained against Georgia on Saturday.

A 58-48 lead all but disappeared, and Auburn closed to within 64-63 with five quick points. Rasheem Barrett hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds remaining and DeWayne Reed then had a steal and layup.

Crawford saved the Wildcats from serious trouble with a long heave across midcourt to Michael Porter when Auburn nearly forced a 10-second violation with a full-court press.

"We got a little unlucky," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "We had a trap in the corner and another trap in the corner. The guy is falling down and it was almost a 10-second count, but he threw it almost like hockey, he iced it. They get one on the other end there and get the foul."

The Tigers were forced to foul Ramon Harris, who made 1-of-2 free throws with 14 seconds to play. Reed then tried a long 3-pointer that missed badly, and Patterson grabbed the rebound.

"I felt like I had a good look," Reed said. "It was lined up straight, but it started turning when it got there."

It was the shot Lebo said he wanted.

"That was exactly the plan," Lebo said. "The last second was for Reed to go one-on-one at the top."

Harris made one of two free throws with 3 seconds left and Lucas Hargrove rebounded the miss and threw up a desperation shot from before midcourt that went wide right.

The result was the ninth straight win in the series for Kentucky, which has won 23 of the last 24 meetings. Wildcats guard Jodie Meeks remained out with a hip injury.

Patterson and Crawford fueled Kentucky's hot shooting performance. Patterson made 8-of-10 baskets. Crawford was 8-for-12 and made three 3-pointers for the short-handed Wildcats. Perry Stevenson scored 10 points before fouling out late.

Quan Prowell led Auburn with 20 points and nine rebounds. Rasheem Barrett had 12 points, Quantez Robertson 11 and Frank Tolbert 10.

The Tigers shot just 41 percent and made 5-of-18 3-pointers.

The Wildcats took advantage of a stretch when Auburn missed eight straight shots to build the 58-48 lead on Patterson's short jumper with 6:22 left.

The Tigers then started to force mistakes.

"It was frustrating," Patterson said. "They trapped us and we were out of sync. We didn't come to the ball like we should and help out our teammates. We just turned it over so much."

Crawford felt Bradley's absence had plenty to do with that. He said Bradley was clearly not the same in practice early this week.

"He was kind of out of it," Crawford said. "If he could play, Ramel's going to play."

Tolbert got a steal and then hit two free throws with 2:06 to play to cut it to 62-57 and make it a tight game.

Tolbert stole the ball near midcourt and forced Stevenson to commit his fifth foul to prevent an easy layup

The Tigers had managed to overcome an eight-point deficit to head into halftime tied at 34-all. Hargrove tied it up with a 3-pointer from the right corner that just beat the buzzer to end the half. He couldn't repeat the desperation basket at the end.

"We had our offense down," Patterson said of the first half. "They couldn't stop us down low in the post. We were clicking on offense."


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