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Auburn Downs Kentucky, 76-66

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Tigers overcome slow start, roll in the end.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn began tonight’s game 1-16 from the floor, and beat Kentucky.

Lemme go ahead and repeat that one for you.

Auburn began tonight’s game 1-16 from the floor, and beat Kentucky.

The Tigers got a layup from Jared Harper in the opening minutes and that was it. A couple trips to the foul line, and some key turnovers, and we had to wait until almost nine minutes in before Auburn got its second field goal on a Malik Dunbar three. That basket gave Auburn the lead at 11-10, then an Anfernee McLemore three followed, and Auburn escaped the shooting woes thanks to tenacious defense.

At halftime, Auburn led 39-33, thanks in large part to Bryce Brown’s resurgence. Brown returned from a game away with a sore shoulder, and had eight first half points and a pair of threes. The Tigers shot just 30% from the floor, but hit 13-14 from the line to stay ahead of the Wildcats.

To begin the second half, Kentucky chipped away, and eventually took a 49-48 lead on a dunk by Wenyen Gabriel, and then opened up a 55-51 lead. At that point, things seemed like they were slipping away from the Tigers — Kentucky was finding an offensive groove and slowing the game down to a halfcourt affair — so Auburn needed to find a spark.

Enter Anfernee McLemore.

Desean Murray found McLemore for an alley-oop to pull the Tigers within two, then a Bryce Brown three put Auburn on top, then McLemore reappeared once more.

From that point on, Auburn took over. The Tigers went up by five, then seven, then nine, and finally ten points for the final margin as Kentucky backed off and let the Jungle celebrate.

Both Jared Harper and Bryce Brown finished with 18 points for Auburn, but McLemore’s effort of 13 points, 11 rebounds, and a huge defensive effort paced the Tigers tonight. Kevin Knox led all scorers with 19 points but it wasn’t enough as the home crowd and the relentless Auburn effort was enough for the win.

Auburn improves to 23-3 overall, 11-2 in the SEC, while Kentucky drops its fourth straight game to fall to 6-7 in the SEC. The Tigers will head to South Carolina this Saturday, with tipoff coming at 2:30 pm CST. If the Tigers can win three more SEC games, they’ll be assured of a tie for the best record in the SEC. The magic number shrinks every night.

War Eagle!