Date story was published: Thursday, February 11, 1988
AUBURN, Ala. -- Freshman Eric Manuel hit two clutch baskets, four of his six points in the final 3:17, helping Kentucky to a 69-62 victory over Auburn last night.
UK, 17-3 overall, strengthened its hold on first place in the Southeastern Conference. UK improved to 9-3 while second-place Florida fell to 7-4 in losing at Georgia.
The Cats led by as many as 10 points in the second half. But in the final four minutes, the lead had been cut to 59-55.
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After Auburn freshman Matt Geiger missed the front end of a one-and-one with 3:48 left, Manuel tipped in Rob Lock's miss.
On UK's next possession, Manuel hit a 15-footer to give the Cats a 63-55 lead.
UK needed the points because Auburn's triangle-and-two defense took Ed Davender out of the game and made Rex Chapman work for his points. Chapman finished with 25 points, 17 in the first half.
Auburn, 12-8 and 5-6, got no closer than five.
The halftime score alone indicated that the first half last night was in stark contrast to the UK-Auburn game in Lexington.
A month ago, the two teams played at Auburn's preferred slow-down pace. Last night, UK led 40-31 after the first 20 minutes.
In the 53-52 loss to Auburn last month, the Cats didn't score 40 points until the 8:22 mark of the second half.
UK showed early it came here intent on playing its game. The Cats ripped off an 8-2 lead in the first two minutes, forcing Auburn to call time with 18:10 left.
Rob Lock scored two of the baskets, the second with 18:49 left. He had already surpassed the three points he scored against Auburn in Lexington.
UK extended its lead to as much as seven several times in the first 10 minutes.
Chris Morris' cold shooting was a factor in keeping Auburn behind. The Tigers' leading scorer (20.4 ppg) missed his first four shots and seven of his first eight. Many were blind flips toward the basket. Morris hit only four of his 14 first-half shots.
But the Tigers got a lift in the return of center Jeff Moore. Moore, who broke a bone in his shooting hand Dec. 30, returned to action for the first time with 15:28 left. He replaced freshman center Matt Geiger, who picked up his second foul blocking Lock's dunk attempt from behind.
Moore scored 10 points in the half. His turnaround jumper over Cedric Jenkins cut UK's lead to 21-17 with 8:19 left.
Behind the shooting of Chapman, UK pushed its lead out to as much as 11 in the waning minutes of the half. Chapman scored 13 of his 17 first-half points in the final 7:19.
Three of the shots were three-pointers.
After the second three-pointer, Auburn went to a triangle-and-two defense, guarding Chapman and Davender man-to-man.
With a timely assist from Richard Madison, Chapman answered immediately with a three-pointer. Madison hustled to rebound Davender's miss, tapping the ball to Chapman as Madison headed head-long into the sideline.
Chapman then drilled a three-pointer, giving UK a 36-25 lead, the first of three 11-point margins.
The last also came courtesy of Chapman. Off on the fast break, Chapman wound up for a monster slam as Auburn's Derrick Dennison beat a hasty retreat to challenge the shot.
Chapman slammed over the startled Dennison to make it 40-29 with 1:12 left.
Neither team could make much headway in the first five minutes of the second half.
UK had four turnovers. Twice, Davender forced the transition game and lost the ball.
Auburn matched its six first-half turnovers in the first five minutes.
The stalemate of futility left UK ahead 43-35 when a timeout was called with 14:53 left.
But the opening minutes did provide two thrills.
At the 16:38 mark, Chapman beat his man on the drive and rose for a foul- line jumper. As he rose, Moore stretched his 6-foot-7 frame into the shot. Chapman adjusted in midair and flipped in a shot that put UK ahead 43-33.
Thirty seconds later, Morris took a pass in the lane and in one motion flipped it behind his back to Moore under the basket. Moore's layup cut the Kentucky lead to 43-35.
Shortly thereafter, the game's up-tempo seemed to work against UK. Instead of protecting the lead and milking the clock, UK rushed shots and forced shots.
Auburn seemed to thrive on the game's helter-skelter nature.
Morris' flying slam-jam cut the UK lead to 43-37 with 13:39 left.
Lock picked up his fourth foul in transition with 11:10 left. Moore's layup on the play kept the lead at 47-41.
Geiger posted Lock's replacement, Cedric Jenkins, for a basket that made it 47-43 with 10:29 left. Two Johnny Lynn free throws cut the lead to 51-49 with 7:54 left. But Auburn got no closer despite two chances.
Moore shuffled his feet preparing for a layup and was called for walking.
On the next possession, an unchallenged Caylor threw a cross-court pass behind Howard.
The lead was 53-51 when Morris was hit with a technical. It came after he was called for a foul while blocking the second Lock shot underneath.
UK got only two points from the potential five-point play. Lock hit two free throws on the foul, but missed the technical free throw.
Chapman's leaner was blocked from the side.
Lock was involved when UK broke from its last two-point lead.
The UK center was hammered by Moore on a layup. The two free throws put UK ahead 59-55 and set the stage for Manuel.