Date story published: Tuesday, February 21, 1989
AUBURN, Ala. -- Two player gestures told the sad story of Kentucky's 77-75 loss to Auburn last night, a defeat that saddled the Cats with only the third six-game losing streak in school history.
After raising his arms triumphantly to the Auburn student section, Derrick Dennison hit two free throws with six seconds left to set the final score.
UK's final attempt to stave off an embarrassing defeat died with Sean Sutton's frantic jumper in the lane. When the shot bounced hard off the backboard, Sutton sank to his knees. He leaned forward and tucked his head between his arms as if hiding in shame.
UK's point guard didn't move for several seconds. His father, UK coach Eddie Sutton, ignored the Auburn celebration and tugged on Sean's shoulder.
Sean Sutton had tied the score at 75-75 with a spinning jumper. Sixteen seconds remained.
Auburn called time with 12 seconds left. UK pressed on the inbounds, but the ball was inbounded to walk-on Clarence Wrencher who found Dennison free.
Only a hustling Chris Mills saved an easy two. Mills threw himself into Dennison as the Auburn player rose for his shot.
Its sixth straight loss dropped Kentucky to 11-16 overall and 6-9 in the Southeastern Conference. Only in 1922-23 and 1909-10 had the Cats lost six straight games.
Auburn won for only the second time in 15 SEC games and improved to 9-14 overall.
Kentucky dug itself a 10-point deficit before rallying to take a 42-40 halftime lead.
"That gave them confidence they could play with us," Eddie Sutton said.
Nine turnovers -- four on attempts to pass the ball inside -- in the first 11 minutes helped put UK behind.
Auburn converted three straight turnovers into six points. Those were part of an 8-0 run that gave Auburn an early 17-9 lead. Half of Auburn's first 26 points came off the fast break.
The easy fast-break baskets helped Auburn hit eight of its first 12 shots, an exhibition that forced UK out of its man-to-man defense.
When the Cats switched to a 2-1-2 zone, Auburn cooled off. The Tigers made only eight of their final 22 shots of the half.
Keenan Carpenter, who had 16 points in the first half, hit a three-pointer over UK's zone to give Auburn a 29-19 lead. Another three-pointer, this one by Dennison, made it 32-22.
UK outscored Auburn 20-8 from there. Offensive rebounding was the prime reason.
Ten of Kentucky's final 22 points of the half came on second-chance opportunities.
A rebound basket by LeRon Ellis, who had 15 points in the first half, tied it at 36-36 with 3:59 left.
Twenty-nine seconds later, Ellis hit a fastbreak layup to put UK ahead 38-36. It was the Cats' first lead since 2-0.
Another rebound basket, this one by Reggie Hanson, gave UK its first three-point lead: 40-37.
Kentucky was intent on pounding the ball inside as the second half began. Twelve of UK's first 15 points came on shots from the lane or low post.
Two post-up shots by Ellis gave UK its first four-point leads (44-40 and 51-47).
But Auburn did not go away. The Tigers worked inside for two post-up baskets.
Carpenter got a screen from Matt Geiger that rubbed off Hanson. Carpenter hit a three-pointer to cut UK's lead to 53-52.
UK switched to a 2-1-2 zone at the 12:30 mark.
Dennison hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to put Auburn ahead 59-57.
Carpenter took an Ellis pass on UK's next possession and ran to a layup. Ellis was called for blocking attempting to get a charging call. Carpenter's free throw gave Auburn a 62-57 lead with 11:37 left.
Auburn increased its lead to as much as 72-63 over the next six minutes. Both teams missed opportunities in that span.
Richie Farmer had a layup blocked. Carpenter left a contested fast-break layup short.
Turnovers plagued UK. The Cats had five in four minutes.
The fifth enabled Auburn to take its largest lead of the second half. A feed into a posting Mills was too far in front of the UK player.
Geiger saved the ball blindly 25 feet in the air. Wrencher tipped the save to Carpenter, who passed ahead to Dennison. Dennison got fancy and threw down a backward over-the-head dunk that put Auburn ahead 72-63 with 5:37 left.
Mills keyed UK's comeback. After his layup cut the deficit to seven, Mills blocked Carpenter's forced shot in the lane.
Mills finished off the play by racing to a fast-break layup and three- point play. That cut Auburn's lead to 72-68.
UK made several charges.
After Geiger took a questionable shot -- fading left he turned and shot over his right shoulder -- Ellis hit a fast-break layup that got UK within 73-72.
That set the stage for the final dramatics.