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SEC MEN'S TOURNAMENT - SEMIFINAL - Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN

Kentucky tops Auburn, advances to finals

1590 days ago
Associated Press
Photo: Team Coyle

Box Score | Game Notes | Photo Gallery | Auburn Quotes | Kentucky Quotes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Willie Cauley-Stein scored 18 points and Andrew Harrison added 15 for No. 1 Kentucky, which routed depleted Auburn 91-67 Saturday to reach the Southeastern Conference Tournament final and run its record to 33-0.

The Wildcats had their way against a short-handed opponent. Forward Jordon Granger was suspended for fighting in Friday's semifinal win over LSU, and just before tipoff Auburn announced the suspension of forward Cinmeon Bowers for a potential rules violation.

Their presence likely wouldn't have mattered against Kentucky, which clicked in all areas and will play for the title Sunday against the Arkansas-Georgia winner. The Wildcats shot 56 percent and outrebounded the Tigers 39-25 for the tournament's most lopsided victory.

Trey Lyles, Aaron Harrison and Devin Booker each added 12 points for the Wildcats, who twice led by as many as 27 including in the final minute.

Antoine Mason's 23 points led Auburn (15-20), which shot 33 percent and had won its previous three games. Malcolm Canada added 16 points and KT Harrell 13 for the Tigers.

Coming off a 15-point quarterfinal victory, Kentucky started stronger and didn't let up. More than anything, the Wildcats to quickly deflate an Auburn team that on Friday upset fourth-seeded LSU 73-70 in overtime.

Whatever euphoria the Tigers enjoyed from the LSU game faded in a hurry against Kentucky, which drilled them by 35 points last month in Lexington. The challenge was all the more difficult without Granger, who sat several rows behind the Auburn bench with fans dressed in warmups.

Then came the s pregame announcement of Bowers' suspension that made Auburn's task even tougher. The forward sat on the bench dressed in a warmup, left with the role of playing cheerleader.

Starting in Bowers' place was 6-foot-5 junior swing man Devin Waddell, who had scored just 14 points this season. The Tigers also used 7-foot-2 reserve Trayvon Reed but still lacked the size and manpower to keep up with the taller, deeper Wildcats.

Andrew Harrison and Lyles combined for 22 first-half points and the Wildcats led 47-29 at the break, shooting 58 percent.

Auburn drew within 55-42 on two free throws by Harrell early in the second half. But Kentucky built its lead to 27 with 10 1/2 minutes left, with Devin Booker lobbing to Willie Cauley-Stein for a thunderous dunk . That brought Wildcats fans to their feet again as their team returned to a familiar spot in the tournament.

COOLER HEADS PREVAILED

Down two players, Auburn couldn't afford to lose another. So when 7-2 Tigers center Trayvon Reed and 5-9 Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis started jawing early in the first half, teammates quickly stepped in to prevent it from escalating into another confrontation. Both players were assessed technical fouls but no free throws were taken.

TIP-INS

Auburn: Waddell and Reed combined for three points and seven rebounds for the Tigers. ... Auburn posted just one first-half assist and finished with five.

Kentucky: One of Ulis' five first-half assists included a drive through several players to the baseline before wrapping a pass around one to Cauley-Stein for a dunk, plus one. The 7-footer missed the free throw, but Dakari Johnson dunked the rebound for a 20-point lead. ... Kentucky was 7 of 14 from 3-point range.

UP NEXT:

Auburn: Season ends.

Kentucky: Faces Arkansas-Georgia winner in SEC championship Sunday.