By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky freshmen Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro both had 20 points to help UK win 82-80 at Auburn Saturday despite getting outscored by 21 points from 3-point range.
“Just a great road win for this young Kentucky team that it can really build on,” said UK Radio Network analyst Tony Delk, a former UK All-American. “To silence this crowd at times was very impressive.”
Kentucky went on a 9-0 run to finish the first half and then a 10-2 run to start the second half to open a 48-31 lead with 17 minutes to play. However, Auburn never quit challenging the Cats or taking 3-pointers and finally took the lead at 80-79 with 25 seconds to play on a 3-pointer by Jared Harper.
Kentucky didn’t waste time answering when Herro got fouled with 24.1 seconds left. He made both free throws to get the lead back for UK.
Auburn took its time before Harper drove on Ashton Hagans, UK’s best defender, and got to the rim. His shot went in but came out and Immanuel Quickley rebounded with :04 left. He made one free throw and Auburn missed a half-court desperation shot to enable UK to win.
“I was preaching just quit looking at the scoreboard and play the way that got us the lead,” UK senior Reid Travis, who had 17 points and seven rebounds, said after the win. “That’s what we finally did to get a great win.”
PJ Washington also had 13 points and seven rebounds and didn’t let a late questionable flagrant foul against him impact the rest of his game.
Hagans finished with 6 points on 2-for-4 shooting but also had seven rebounds, six assists and one steal — which snapped his streak of games with three or more steals at five.
“We just stayed together and had each other’s back. We stuck together the whole time. They were all against us and we had to stay together,” Johnson said. “Basketball is a game of runs. We just knew we had to keep playing.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari said his team was “ready to bury” the Tigers when it made some careless mistakes and “reverted” back to a high school mentality. However, the coach was thrilled to get the road win and push UK’s SEC record to 4-1.
“These guys don’t know the difference home and road. They are just playing basketball. Today was one of our better games,” Calipari said.