Date story was published: Tuesday, January 7, 1986
AUBURN, Ala. - After falling behind by as much as 16 points, Kentucky put up a rally that fell short in the final 90 seconds.
The result was an exciting 60-56 Auburn victory in a series that has seen UK pull out several thrillers in the final seconds.
Last night, however, the Cats could get no closer than 54-52 with 1:24 remaining.
Auburn, which improved to 7-5 overall and 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference, clinched it by making six straight free throws down the stretch.
UK, which had a five-game winning streak snapped, fell to 10-2 overall and 1-1 in the SEC.
UK's cause seemed hopeless until the final five minutes.
The Wildcats trailed 54-42 when Chuck Person, who scored a game-high 24 points, hit a jumper at the 5:01 mark.
Then Kentucky reeled off 10 straight points as Auburn crumbled under UK's full-court press.
Kenny Walker, who had 12 second-half points and finished with 22, scored eight straight to fuel the comeback.
Walker's run followed the last of James Blackmon's three straight jumpers that cut the deficit to 54-44.
Then Walker hit two free throws after Auburn freshman Michael Jones threw up an 18 footer with 40 seconds left on the 45-second clock.
Walker hit three straight turnaround shots in the lane to bring UK within two at 54-52 with 1:24 remaining.
UK got no closer.
The Wildcats made several runs at Auburn earlier in the second half, but each was repelled.
The first sign that this would not be Kentucky's night came on an exchange of fastbreak attempts with UK trailing 38-24.
Roger Harden had the UK break, but Person shaded UK's trailer, Walker, and Harden forced a layup that fell far short.
Person rebounded and fed Frank Ford for a layup on the break that upped the lead to 40-24.
Getting a boost from Cedric Jenkins, who started the second half as Sutton abandoned his three-guard lineup, UK closed to 13 (41-28). Then, Winston Bennett missed a shot from the top of the key and fouled on the rebound. The foul was his fourth and Bennett had to leave.
When play became rag tag, each team rushing to get off shots, UK closed to within 12 (46-34).
Auburn sub Terrance Howard got a standing ovation from the crowd when he pulled up, rather than force a fastbreak. Auburn eventually got a layup on the possession.
Kentucky closed to within 10 again (48-38) on a fluke basket. Walker caught a ball that went through Rob Lock's hands and dunked it.
Then, Auburn freshman Michael Jones hit from the top of the key.
Person caught fire mid-way through the first half and scorched Kentucky for 18 points.
At one point, Person scored 12 straight points, personally propelling Auburn into its largest lead (28-12).
On the strength of such shooting, Kentucky found itself trailing 34-20 at intermission.
Before Person got hot, UK was troubled by cold shooting of its own. Facing mostly zone defenses for the first time this season by a team with the physical capabilities of Auburn, the Wildcats seemed confused.
Feeds into Walker in the low post became difficult. And once inside, it seemed every UK shot was contested.
As a result, the Wildcats resorted to many shots from the perimeter of Auburn's shifting zones (2-3, 1-2-2 and 1-3-1).
Sutton resorted to a timeout with 18:08 left in the half when UK seemed confused against Auburn's 1-3-1 one.
After scoring the game's first basket - a Walker layup, two of his 10 first-half points - UK went almost five minutes without a point. The Cats missed five shots and committed two turnovers in the span. When Harden charged against Auburn's 1-3-1 zone, Sutton called time at the 18:08 mark.
With Person missed his first six shots, however, UK could keep within striking distance.
After trailing 10-4 in the early going, UK scored six straight points to tie it.
Then Person went wild.
Auburn took the lead for good (at 12-10) when Chris Morris dunked a fastbreak lob from Gerald White.
Person hit his first shot - with 9:27 remaining - to increase the lead to 14-10. Much to UK's regret, the senior forward missed only once thereafter.
After Jones hit a 15-footer, Auburn's third straight basket, the rest of the 18-2 run was all Person.
In order, his baskets were: his patented top-of-the-key jumper, a post-up over Winston Bennett, a spinning jumper from the top of the key, two free throws, a jumper from the right corner off an inbounds pass and nother spinning jumper from the foul-line area.
The one-man show was punctuated by several pumping fists to excite the Auburn student section. When the smoke had cleared, UK was trailing 28-12 with 4:52 remaining.
UK, which shot just 30.8 percent (8 of 26), closed to within 10 (30-20) in the final minutes of the half. Walker scored all eight points in a 8-2 run that got UK within 10.
Then Person hit two more long-range jumpers in the final 55 seconds to set the halftime score.
His final basket, coming off one of Auburn's several second-shot opportunities, was particularly damaging. It followed Ed Davender stripping the ball from White's grasp as the Auburn went up for a baseline shot with nine seconds left.
However, the ball bounced out of bounds.
Given new life, Auburn got the ball to Person for another spinning shot from 18 feet with four seconds left.
After it fell, and the final four seconds ticked off, Person charged into the locker room waving his fist.