O’Neill, No. 10 Kentucky hold off Auburn, 73-71

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AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Kentucky’s shots and free throws didn’t fall at the end, but the 10th-ranked Wildcats made sure Auburn didn’t get a chance to try either.

Jennifer O’Neill scored 16 points, Samarie Walker had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Kentucky overcame a 13-point first-half deficit to beat Auburn 73-71 on Sunday.

The Wildcats (15-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) survived 13-of-29 shooting from the foul line to hold off the Tigers (11-7, 2-2).

“We had to make some big plays to get the victory,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “To come on the road against a really good team that’s motivated to win and plays hard, these are difficult games to win.”

Meagan Tucker hit a jumper with 1:07 left to bring Auburn within two points. The Wildcats worked 20 seconds off the clock and then called timeout. O’Neill missed two 3-pointers in the final seconds, but Linnae Harper and Walker grabbed the offensive rebounds.

“The opportunity was there,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “We played hard. Sometimes we just didn’t do everything that we needed to do, like rebounding the basketball on the defensive end.

“They got too many offensive possessions. At that point, you’ve got to box out and get that defensive rebound to even give yourselves a chance.”

Walker missed two free throws with 6 seconds remaining. Tyrese Tanner, who scored 28 points, rebounded and threw it to Katie Frerking. O’Neill smothered her in the corner as she collected the ball and Auburn couldn’t get a final shot off.

“No. 23 (Walker) tipped the ball while I was trying to dribble and I was trying to pass it up to Katie because I saw she was open,” Tanner said. “But my pass was too high. I probably should have kept it. I saw her wide open, but it just didn’t get there.”

Harper also had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats. O’Neill made 4 of 11 3-pointers and had four assists and three steals. Leading scorer DeNesha Stallworth had five points in 14 minutes.

Auburn’s No. 2 scorer, Hasina Muhammad, missed the game with an unspecified injury.

Tanner kept Auburn close with 17 points in the second half. She matched her career high in an SEC game.

“She put it on her shoulders and said, ‘Come on, guys,’” Williams-Flournoy said. “And that is exactly what she did.”

Tanner’s sister, Tra’Cee, scored 15 points for Auburn before fouling out with 12:26 left. Brandy Montgomery added 10 points but was 5 of 14 shooting and had seven turnovers.

Kentucky had won last season’s meeting 97-53, the most points ever scored against Auburn.

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