Published Sunday, January 20, 2013
BY JOHN ZENOR
AP SPORTS WRITER
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) – Kyle Wiltjer and the Kentucky Wildcats decided not to let up once they built a big lead.
Wiltjer scored 17 points for the second straight game and Kentucky held Auburn without a 3-pointer in a 75-53 victory on Saturday night while dominating the second half.
"When we started playing good down the stretch, we huddled together and said that we need to start burying teams," Wiltjer said. "In the past we kind of played around with them. And we did a good job executing down the stretch to get easy baskets."
The Wildcats (12-5, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) turned a five-point halftime game into a rout for their 14th consecutive win over the Tigers (8-9, 2-2) and 28th in 29 meetings.
Kentucky made 18 of 27 shots (67 percent) in its second straight hot-shooting performance after halftime.
It might have been a sign of Wiltjer's night that he was introduced before the game as the starter even though he wasn't in the lineup.
"I went to the official and said, `This guy's not starting,'" Wildcats coach John Calipari said.
He didn't say anything about not starring.
Meanwhile, the Tigers missed all 15 3-point attempts, making it only the third time they've been held without a 3. It was the first since going 0 for 14 at Ole Miss on March 1, 1997.
"It's disappointing. We had lack of confidence," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "We were scared of the moment."
Nerlens Noel made sure things weren't much easier inside. Noel had 10 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks. He played only 25 minutes because of foul trouble.
Archie Goodwin had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and Ryan Harrow and Alex Poythress also scored a dozen.
Rob Chubb had 14 points and seven rebounds for Auburn. Frankie Sullivan scored 12 but was just 5-of-16 shooting and missed all six 3-point attempts. Allen Payne added 11 and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum 10.
Even in their home arena, Chubb said the Tigers didn't handle the situation against the defending national champions well.
"We had a real lack of aggression, lack of poise, and it was from the get-go," Chubb said. "We let this one slip, and we're going to bounce back quick, but we were a little intimidated out there."
The Wildcats had shot 65 percent after the half against Tennessee in a 75-65 win.
Wiltjer's 17 points in those games is a career-high in SEC games for the sophomore. He made 3 of 6 from 3-point range against Auburn, hit both his long-range attempts in the second half and dished out five assists.
His hot streak started after the key off-the-bench performer managed two points combined in the previous two games.
"He's playing more aggressive," Calipari said. "There's no tentativeness to his game."
The Wildcats also outrebounded Auburn 43-30.
The Tigers' ice cold shooting came three days after they made 11 3s in a double-overtime loss at Arkansas that snapped a three-game win streak.
They made 3 of their first 20 shots and hit 23 of 66 (35 percent) in the game. Kentucky started with a 2-of-14 shooting stretch but, unlike Auburn, eventually warmed up. The Wildcats made 1 of 10 3-pointers before halftime and hit all but one of five second-half attempts.
The defensive play was much more consistent.
"Like I kept saying, just keep guarding," Calipari said. "We couldn't make a shot either. I felt we gutted it out. There was great execution. When they made a mini-run at us, our guys gutted it out.
"They're getting more aggressive. I love the fact that we've got five guys in double figures. That's how we want to play."
Wiltjer opened and closed a 14-4 run that gave Kentucky a 53-37 lead in the final 13 minutes. He started it with a 3-pointer and then hit a basket inside after waiting for an Auburn defender to sail by.
The Tigers, who trailed just 30-25 at halftime, never challenged again.
Kentucky eventually went ahead by as many as 27 points in the final minutes.
Chants of "Go Big Blue" then took over Auburn Arena as the defending national champions won for the third time in four games.
Auburn's No. 2 scorer, Chris Denson, played for the first time in four games after recovering from a foot injury. He missed all four attempts and didn't score in 13 minutes.
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