Last year, when Auburn and Kentucky met in Auburn Arena, the Tigers hosted College Gameday for the first time and defeated the Wildcats in front of a sellout crowd.
On Saturday, Auburn hosted Kentucky in front of a much smaller crowd than last year, but the outcome was the same, with the Tigers walking away with a 66-59 victory.
"Well, I think you're judged by how you do against the best teams on your schedule and certainly, Kentucky's going to be as good as anybody on our schedule, said head coach Bruce Pearl. "Beating Alabama's important, beating Georgia's important. So, it matters. We want to make history."
In the first half, baskets were hard to come by as both teams shot less than 40% from the field.
Kentucky shot 33.3% from the field in the first half and was led in scoring by Jacob Toppin and Dontaie Allen with eight apiece. The Wildcats finished the first half with 25 points, their lowest first-half total this season.
Auburn was 8-of-33 from the field and 2-of-17 from 3-point range. The Tigers' 21 first-half points tied their lowest first-half output this season.
Sharife Cooper had been the spark for the Tigers since debuting against Alabama a week ago. In the first half, Cooper struggled and was 0-of-8 from the field but did dish out three assists.
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Heading into the locker room at halftime, the Wildcats held the advantage and were up 25-21.
In the second half, both teams came to life on offense. The Tigers shot 55.6% from the field, and the Wildcats shot 45.5%.
Allen Flanigan led the Tigers with 16 second-half points and finished with 21 on the afternoon.
"I'm really confident in my game just knowing that I put in work this summer and worked my butt off to put myself in a great spot," Flanigan said.
In the second half, Flanigan was 4-of-9 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free-throw line. He was one of three Tigers to finish the game in double-digits as Devan Cambridge had 13 and Sharife Cooper dropped in 11.
"Allen Flanigan was a man out there, in every which way," Pearl said. "Rebounding, defensively, just attacking the rim, using his physicality. Willingness to take big shots. 8-for-8 from the foul line. Talk about a warrior."
Flanigan was not the only Tiger to step up in the second half as Cambridge scored eight points on 3-of-4 shooting, and Cooper had eight on 3-of-5 from the field.
Auburn turned defense into offense throughout the whole game, but especially in the second half. The Tigers forced 12 turnovers in the second half and turned that into 17 points.
Auburn took the lead with 10:07 left in the game off a Cambridge 3-pointer to go up 46-43 and never lost its lead.
The Wildcats kept it close, cutting the lead down to two on two separate occasions, but the Tigers answered each time with several players answering the call.
Cambridge feels that the Tigers being able to answer the Wildcats' late-game challenge shows how much this team has grown.
"It's shown that we've grown a lot as a team," Cambridge said. "Everyone says that we're young because of our age, freshmen and sophomores. But we've been growing together, and we're willing to step up and make those plays like the charges and steals, playing the passing lanes, those types of things. I'm proud of that."
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