LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second time in as many games, Kentucky basketball’s turbo-charged team was slowed down by breathless whistle-blowing Saturday against Auburn. Unlike Tuesday night at Vanderbilt, the Wildcats still found a way to stomp on the gas at the end and run away from the Tigers, 92-72, at Rupp Arena.
Five Wildcats scored in double figures and Malik Monk put on another show with 24 points, 6 assists and a jaw-dropping late dunk that seemed to rob Auburn of any remaining hope.
Even in a game that featured 49 combined fouls — and starting point guard De’Aaron Fox fouling out with 7:23 to go — sixth-ranked Kentucky cruised to 15-2 overall and 5-0 in SEC play, while the Tigers fell to 11-6, 1-4.
Player of the game
Monk hit 8 of 14 shots, including 4 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line, and had the punctuating baseline drive and tomahawk slam with 5:18 to go. That put Kentucky up by 13 and effectively finished off a plucky Auburn squad. Later, he flung a shot wildly toward the rim at the end of the shot clock … and it swished. Monk shrugged, like Michael Jordan once famously did. When he takes flight, the Cats’ freshman star sometimes looks a bit like His Airness. Saturday marked his 10th game with 20-plus points in 17 tries.
Stat line of the game
Freshman forward Wenyen Gabriel had 6 points, 16 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal in 29 minutes against Auburn. He hit 2 of 3 threes after starting his career 4 of 20 from beyond the arc. Gabriel’s previous career high was 10 rebounds, and he’d grabbed just 16 total rebounds over the past four games.
Just when this game was lulling us all to sleep, Kentucky slogging along with a steady double-digit lead and whistles mucking up the flow of action (again), Auburn made it interesting. T.J. Dunans reeled off 10 straight points for the Tigers as part of a 12-2 run and the Wildcats’ lead was just 60-56 with 12 minutes to go. Then Briscoe buried a 3-pointer and a driving bucket to steady Kentucky.
Auburn had one last gasp, slicing the deficit to six again as Briscoe and Fox picked up their fourth fouls with more than nine minutes left, but Monk eliminated that threat with a 3-pointer, behind-the-head pass to Dominique Hawkins for a dunk and a pair of free throws to push it back to a dozen.
What’s next for Kentucky basketball
The Wildcats travel to Starkville on Tuesday to face a hot Mississippi State team (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Bulldogs, coming off consecutive road wins over LSU and Arkansas, took down Texas A&M on Saturday. Ben Howland’s team is now 12-4 overall and 3-1 in SEC play. After that trip, Kentucky will return home next Saturday for a showdown with South Carolina (6 p.m. ET, ESPN), which already has eight wins against top-100 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.
Kentucky vs. Auburn box score