It was anything but aesthetically pleasing, but the 14th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats improved to 19-5 overall and 9-2 in SEC play with a 64-56 road win over the Auburn Tigers on Thursday night.
Kentucky cruised into halftime with a 6-point lead, but in the mid-stages of the second half, Auburn mounted a significant challenge. With 8:14 remaining, the usually underwhelming Tigers actually led Kentucky by a 40-39 margin, but then, the Wildcats finally decided to awaken. An 11-2 run keyed by 9 points from the Harrison twins pushed Kentucky back into the lead over a 4-minute stretch, and from that 8-point advantage, they were able to keep their distance in route to the 8-point win.
Highly-touted freshman Julius Randle led the way for Kentucky with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while the aforementioned Harrison twins combined for 26 points, with Andrew scoring a team-high 16 and Aaron chipping in 10 despite rough shooting nights for both players (combining for 5-for-18). As a whole, the Kentucky offense was wretched with the exception of Randle, but not even their 30.9% shooting clip from the floor was enough to cost them a win in this spot.
Auburn fought valiantly despite a significant talent disadvantage, and to be honest, they did everything possible in order to win this game. Normally, holding a high-powered team like UK to this kind of rough shooting night would do the trick, but the Tigers couldn’t summon enough offense (32.7% shooting as a team), and they seemed to run out of gas after their early 2nd-half success.
Kentucky remains one of two “real” threats to win the SEC (along with Florida), and nothing on Thursday should discourage that.