LEXINGTON, Ky. — Immanuel Quickley had 18 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, No. 8 Kentucky used a big run in the first half before holding off No. 15 Auburn and clinch the Southeastern Conference regular season championship with a 73-66 victory Saturday.
The Wildcats (24-5, 14-2) entered with a two-game lead on the second-place Tigers (24-5, 11-5) but had to overcome a 20-11 deficit before responding with the 20-3 spurt over 5:47 and eventually build an eight-point advantage. Auburn fought back to within 53-50 early in the second half, but Kentucky stayed ahead in a foul-plagued half by making 14 free throws down the stretch. That included seven by Quickley, who made all 11 from the line.
Kentucky made 27 of 33 free throws while Auburn hit 13 of 22 in a game featuring 23 fouls by each team. The schools also finished with 38 rebounds each.
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Tyrese Maxey added 17 points, Nick Richards 14 and Nate Sestina 11 off the bench as the Wildcats won their eighth consecutive game and avenged a 75-66 loss to Auburn on Feb. 1.
J’Von McCormick had 13 points and Austin Wiley 10 for the Tigers, who shot 36% and had their two-game streak snapped.
Kentucky’s continued roll could boost their top-10 standing. Auburn might lose a few spots in the rankings.
Auburn: The Tigers still have a good chance to earn one of the top four seeds and a double bye for the SEC Tournament. But the loss leaves little room for error over the final two contests with one game separating four schools in the standings.
Kentucky: The Wildcats claimed their 49th SEC regular-season title and the No. 1 seeding for next month’s tournament in Nashville. Most importantly, they capped February by avenging their last loss against the Tigers that opened the month.
Auburn: Hosts Texas A&M on Wednesday before closing the season at Tennessee on Saturday.
Kentucky: Hosts Tennessee in a late game Tuesday before visiting Florida in the season finale on Saturday.