By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky turned to its defense to wrap up another SEC championship.
Auburn missed 10 of its last 12 shots as UK pulled away for a 73-66 victory, it’s eighth straight SEC victory.
Kentucky won even though its three starting guards were a combined 10-for-36 from the field — Ashton Hagans was 2 of 13, Tyrese Maxey 5 of 13 and Immanuel Quickley 3 of 10.
However, Quickley did go 11-for-11 at the foul line to finish with a game-high 18 points along with a team-high 12 rebounds. Maxey was 7-for-8 at the line to get 17 points and he also had seven rebounds.
“Our guards have to rebound,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “When you are playing three point guards, you can get outreboun
“We tried different guys on him (Quickley). Maxey and Quickley go 18-for-19 at the free throw line. We fouled them too much,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.
Center Nick Richards only got to play 18 minutes due to foul trouble but finished with 14 points. However, he had just three rebounds.
Nate Sestina provided some needed scoring, too, with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
“Him making a couple of shots was big,” Calipari said.
Auburn knocked UK out of the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight last year. Pearl thinks the Cats could do serious NCAA damage again.
“I think they are the best team in our league. They are the hottest team in our league,” Pearl said. “They are physical offensively and they have got all the pieces. I thought we played pretty well in defeat. Kentucky played really good defensively. We weren’t able to defend without fouling.
“I really like Kentucky’s team. I really like their coach. I think they are very undervalued. I am rooting for them to go a long way.”
Calipari was disappointed his team was just 2-for-13 from 3-point range.
“That was another rock fight,” Calipari said. “We proved to us that in that kind of game that we can perform.”
Kentucky got clobbered at the foul line in a loss at Auburn but went 27 of 33 at the line — 81.8 percent for its 12th straight game shooting 75 percent or higher at the foul line — while Auburn was 13 of 22 after shooting 44 against UK four weeks ago.
Auburn opened the game hitting four straight 3-pointers but missed 26 of its next 30.
“Nick had a big block late that helped, too,” Calipari said. “The way they got back in games was shooting 3’s. They just didn’t make them today. That is what they have done to win games. We played the pick and roll a little different in the second half.
“They have seniors and they are a good team and a dangerous team. This was a good win for our guys.”