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KENTUCKY SURVIVES AUBURN 75-71

Date story was published: Thursday, February 5, 1987

James Blackmon's career-high 27 points and an Auburn miss inside the final five seconds enabled the Kentucky Wildcats to hold on and knock off the Tigers 75-71 last night at Rupp Arena.

Blackmon, a senior guard, threw in 17 points the first half as Kentucky, shooting 65.5 percent, rolled to a 20-point lead. But Auburn roared back to within two points, and had the ball, inside the game's final 20 seconds.

The Tigers called time with 16 seconds left. Then Aundrae Davis missed a three-pointer from the right side with five seconds left. "That was the play Coach (Sonny) Smith designed in the huddle," Davis said. "But I kind of had to rush it. It just didn't fall."

Kentucky's Rex Chapman grabbed the long rebound and fed Blackmon for a bucket at the buzzer.

The win moved Kentucky to 13-6 on the year and 6-5 in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn dropped to 12-8 and 5-5 in league play.

Down 73-62 with 4:58 left, Auburn scored nine straight points to cut the lead to two, 73-71, on a three-pointer from Frank Ford. Then when Michael Jones got a hand on Richard Madison's jumper, the Tigers had the ball inside the final minute with a chance to tie. But Jeff Moore missed a 5-footer in the lane, and Kentucky rebounded.

No matter, the Tigers got another chance. They fouled Ed Davender with 27 seconds left and the UK senior missed the front end of the bonus. Auburn rebounded and the Tigers called time with 16 seconds to go, before Davis missed his long jumper.

Until then, the game had been almost all Kentucky, and almost all Blackmon, who spurred the Cat attack with five three-pointers. "There was nothing we could do," Davis said. "We were all in his face and he was still putting them in."

Kentucky roared out of the blocks. Chapman made a steal near the Kentucky bench and, with his back turned and falling out of bounds, flipped the ball into the frontcourt where a streaking Davender ran it down and scored for a 15-5 Kentucky lead.

Madison was fouled the next trip, missed the free throw, but powered under for his own rebound and followed it in. A Rob Lock jumper off the glass made it 19-5 Kentucky, completing a 14-0 Wildcat run.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Blackmon pushed the Cat lead to 25-8. Another Blackmon trifecta took the lead to 32-16. Two free throws from Blackmon and a follow shot by Lock gave Kentucky its biggest lead, 36-16, with 6:32 left in the half.

The lead was 46-31 at intermission. Blackmon was perfect, 6-for-6 from the field, 3-for-3 on three-pointers and 2-for-2 from the line for his 17 points. Madison knocked in 11 while pulling down five rebounds.

Auburn didn't play that badly the first half, hitting 52.2 percent from the floor. "They hit three and we'd hit two," said Michael Jones. "That's the only thing I can see. We didn't play any different in the second half than we did the first half."

Jones had eight points, Davis and Frank Ford had six each the first half. The Tigers were without Ford's running mate in the backourt, Gerald White, who has an injured ankle and did not dress.

Still, the Tigers mounted a threat in the second half, scoring 11 straight points at one time. When Ford scored on a three-point play and Jeff Moore scored inside, the Tigers had climbed to within 52-48 with 13:42 left in the half.

Then Blackmon went back to work. He stopped the string with a bucket. UK then matched the Tigers basket for basket, only one basket was a three-pointer by Rex Chapman, which pushed the lead to 57-50.

The big play was a Lock block that the Auburn coach thought sure to be a goaltend. Lock blocked Moore's shot, and as Smith jumped up and down on the Auburn sideline, Davender drove under, missed a layup, but the trailing Lock tipped it in for a 61-52 Kentucky lead.

Another three-pointer from Blackmon made it 69-56 Cats. It was 73-62 Kentucky with 4:58 left when the Tigers made their final run.

Jones scored. Terrance Howard hit two straight buckets, then Ford threw in a three to pull the Tigers to within 73-71 with 2:03 remaining.

The Wildcats shot 57.4 percent for the game. Auburn hit 55.4. Kentucky hit seven of 13 three-pointers. Blackmon was five of six from that range. UK won the boards 25-24, after enjoying a 15-6 first-half margin. Chapman finished with 18 points and seven assists. Madison had 13 points. And Lock had 10 points and seven rebounds.

Jones and Ford led Auburn with 18 each. Moore had 10 points. Chris Morris had nine points and five steals.

Kentucky travels to Alabama on Saturday to take on the conference leaders. The Crimson Tide won the first meeting between the two teams, 69-55, at Rupp.

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