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RECAP: Kentucky’s journey ends in the Elite Eight, falls to Auburn 77-71

It’s a track meet every time you play the Auburn Tigers, and the Kentucky Wildcats found that out once again in their Elite Eight matchup in Kansas City.

And after coming out on top the first two times, the Cats couldn’t get it done the third time around, falling to the Tigers by a final score of 77-71.

Within the first two minutes and 15 seconds of the game, we saw four combined three-point attempts, five total jumpers, and six shots from both sides. The score at the time, 3-0 in favor of the Cats, didn’t indicate it at the time, but it showed exactly the kind of matchup we were going to be seeing.

After five straight misses from both sides, Kentucky forward Reid Travis got things going with an and-one, sparking a 7-0 run for the Wildcats. Auburn forward Danjel Purifoy stopped the bleeding temporarily with a three-point make, but the Cats kept pushing to extend the lead to ten with 12:13 remaining in the first half.

The Tigers continued to make small runs of their own, but the Cats continued to respond back, pushing the lead to ten or more on four separate times in the first half. After PJ Washington’s three-point jumper with 3:14 remaining to make it 30-20 in favor of Kentucky, Auburn went on a 10-2 run of their own to cut it to two.

UK freshman point guard Ashton Hagans finally stopped the run with a crucial three-pointer on the other end, giving Kentucky a 35-30 lead over Auburn at the half.

After the break, the Cats scored on a quick tip-in from Keldon Johnson, but the Tigers responded with an 8-0 run of their own following two Hagans turnovers to take their first lead of the game.

Auburn pushed their lead to three, but the Cats fought back on a 5-0 run to retake the lead, only to have the Tigers hit another big three to jump back on top.

With an odd combination of tough calls, foul trouble, turnovers, and streaky shooting, the back-and-forth continued for the remainder of the game. Auburn pushed the lead to as many as six, but Kentucky clawed back and tied the game with just 2:56 remaining.

After zero points from either side, PJ Washington grabbed his own rebound in the paint and put it back up for two to take a two-point lead with 57 seconds left. Unfortunately for the Cats, Tiger guard Jared Harper found an open lane and hit a layup to tie it up.

With the clock winding down, Auburn blocked two Kentucky shots in the paint, giving themselves one final opportunity to go for the win. Instead, Tiger forward Horace Spencer lifted for the contested shot and missed it long, sending the game to overtime with the game tied at 60 apiece.

In extra time, Harper scored the first two baskets for Auburn to push the lead to four. Hagans finished a tough bucket on the other end, but the Tigers kept responding with baskets, going up by as many as seven.

Kentucky cut it to three and two on two separate occasions, but the runs came too late for the Cats. When the foul game started, the Tigers converted, eventually pushing the lead to six as the clock struck zero.

After an impressive run to the Elite Eight, their journey would end in Kansas City, falling 77-71 in overtime.

Here are the key takeaways:

Auburn got hot in the second half

In the first half, the white-hot Tigers of late were fairly mortal from the perimeter, shooting just 3-11 from deep. In fact, Kentucky took (and made) more 3-pointers in the first half, knocking down 4-13 attempts.

Mind you, this comes after the Cats shot a combined 39 threes in their last three games (average of 13 per game).

After the break, however, the script flipped, as Auburn went 4-11 from three in the second half, while Kentucky went 0-5. They were able to get to get wherever they wanted on the floor and find open shots, while UK never got comfortable on offense, especially from the outside.

In the regular season, Kentucky’s offense seemed to fire on all cylinders against Auburn. Today, it sputtered all the way to a complete stop in the second half and overtime.

For the Tigers, their backcourt was absolutely dominant against the Wildcat guards, with Jared Harper and Bryce Brown combining for 50 points on 15-30 shooting and 5-13 from three.

Guard play was abysmal

Ashton Hagans finished with ten points, five rebounds, three assists, and a steal, but to say his actual on-court impact was poor would be an understatement. He finished with seven turnovers, making poor decision after poor decision with the ball in his hands.

When it comes to shooting, Hagans was incredibly indecisive, especially when the offense needed a scoring spark. He was hesitant when driving the lane and avoided jumpers unless it was absolutely necessary. His lack of comfort and confidence on the big stage bled into the rest of the backcourt.

Beyond Hagans, Tyler Herro finished with just seven points on 3-11 shooting and 1-5 from three. He added three rebounds, six assists, one block, and one steal, but Kentucky needed his offense today, and he simply didn’t provide it.

Immanuel Quickley had three points on 1-6 shooting, while Jemarl Baker didn’t get a shot off in four minutes of action.

Disappointing all around.

Missed free throws

One of the most frustrating aspects of the loss had to do with Kentucky’s missed opportunities at the line, especially considering this was statistically Calipari’s best free throw shooting team since arriving in Lexington.

Finishing the day shooting 12-21 at the stripe, the Cats left nine points on the table, including 2-5 in the second half and in overtime.

When you look at Auburn’s 18-24 finish at the line, including an incredible 11-11 from Jared Harper, it makes Kentucky’s struggles that much more crushing.

One more make from the line in regulation could have changed the entire outcome of the game. And then in overtime, PJ Washington’s miss on a one-and-one with the game tied just 30 seconds in could have turned into a two-point lead to get things rolling. Going two for two with 1:37 remaining could’ve cut the lead to four instead of five (Washington went one for two).

Quite a bit contributed to Kentucky’s loss, and the misses at the line were certainly part of that.

Kentucky found success down low

Like we saw in each of Kentucky’s two previous matchups with Auburn this season, it was apparent from the jump that the Wildcats had an advantage over the Tigers down low.

And for the most part, Kentucky converted.

All ten of UK’s first points on the board came on baskets in the paint or free throws made from fouls driving to the basket.

Before the break, PJ Washington nearly outscored Auburn’s starters on his own, scoring 15 first-half points compared to 20 total for the Tigers.

Overall, the Wildcat sophomore had a phenomenal game, finishing with 28 points (10-18 shooting and 2-4 from three), 13 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. Washington went just 6-11 from the line, but his dominance elsewhere is likely the only reason why Kentucky stayed in the game as long as they did.

If you’re interested, you can watch just his highlights from the game here:

Outside of Washington, senior forward Reid Travis was extremely efficient in the paint, finishing with nine points on 4-5 shooting to go with six rebounds and an assist in a team-high 44 minutes of action.

On the wing, forward Keldon Johnson finished with 14 points (5-13 shooting), ten rebounds, three assists, one block, and one steal. He struggled with Auburn’s length at times, including one costly block in the paint with the time winding down in overtime, but he found success on some tough shots around the basket throughout the game.

With that, Kentucky’s season ends in Kansas City with a final record of 30-7. Instead of celebrating the win and packing for Minneapolis, we’re all left wondering what could have been.


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

65 Comments for RECAP: Kentucky’s journey ends in the Elite Eight, falls to Auburn 77-71

  1. Catsfan1715
    7:17 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Duke just lost with the most talented team in the last decade. 3/4 years K’s gotten “better” recruits. They need to fire K immediately ! Get him out ! Out-coached! Underperforming with talent! Trolls? Come on out and bring your list of coaches you pathetic pieces of sh*t.

    • BigJohnC
      7:37 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Lol this got me laughing

    • 4everUKblue
      8:07 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      I’m with you Catsfan!

    • syrin23
      8:07 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Oh, so coach K didn’t under perform with three top ten draft picks and the over all number one seed? This is where they were supposed to lose? Coach K sucking makes Cal better? This the AOC generation where critical thinking is optional.

    • Catsfan1715
      11:16 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Most final fours, most elite 8s, most sweet 16s since he started at Kentucky. 2 coaches have won more titles since then, coach K, and Jay Wright . How’s that for critical thinking, moron.

    • Catsfan1715
      11:28 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Facts optional I guess ? Still waiting for your all’s list(s)? Can’t wait to see who’s better !!! How about we steal pop from the spurs! Yeah that’ll make us win it every year!

    • Catsfan1715
      11:41 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Apologies I almost forgot Ol Roy in 2009. So that makes 3 coaches total. Three. Big time list.

    • BigolBlue
      8:16 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      35 nba draft picks 1 title. Countless coaching mishaps and losing to lesser teams. The guy isnt going to win another title here you can count on that. The only one he has is with the top 5 players to ever play college ball AD. Cal lovers

    • BigBlueToo
      8:54 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink


    • Irish son
      11:31 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      K has won 5 National Championships. How many has FOS Cal won?

    • Catsfan1715
      12:00 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Lol he’s been the head coach at Duke since 1980. Go back to bed. Or keep talking and you’ll prove my point even further

    • mikeintn
      11:42 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      I’m with you also Catsfan.

    • KYCat4EVER
      5:40 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Your right Catsdan1715!

      And LETS just pretend we beat Auburn today !

      Ya know… kinda like how we beat Seton Hall this year…

      And we can also PRETENDED Coach Process beat West a Virginia…
      Robert Morris…
      Kansas State…
      And even Auburn…

      In fact we can now justify our LOUSY BENCH COACH…. known as COACH PROCESS a CALIPARI by concentrating on Duke and Coach K??????


      You are like a little FIVE YEAR OLD CHILD telling his own Mom… “but everybody else is doing it?”

      LOL… Grow up and GET ACCOUNTABILITY in to your life ….

      GO BUG BLUE!

    • Catsfan1715
      12:33 pm April 1, 2019 Permalink

      If you bothered to read anything I said you’d know that K was only brought up to prove a point. The point is he, along with ol Roy need to be scratched off you idiots’ list due to the fact that they underperformed yet again. Ol Roy with great talent and Senior leadership. K with possibly the most talented team in the last decade. So. Who we getting!? Where’s the list? That leaves Jay Wright ? Or are we gonna steal Pop from the Spurs? Or are you gonna keep speaking in caps like a simpleton and bashing a HOF coach just because you didn’t get your way and we don’t win a championship every year. You’re pathetic.

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      6:14 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      There is literally no coach who hasn’t under performed with a team. This team did not under perform. It was a top ten team all year and finished in the elite 8. Duke was the number 1 team…they under performed this year. You haters are so quick to complain about Cal but you won’t find anyone better, even your precious K loses. That is the point since you obviously are too dense to understand. There is no one better available so cheer for UK and make the best of it, or leave and make us rational people a lot happier. Looking at you syrin because the others are just trolls.

    • catsarerunnin
      7:00 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      I don’t call it or see it as underperforming. One team played better than the other. It was a close game that went to OT. It’s amazing that so many so called “fans” can’t seem to understand a simple game. They don’t think it’s possible to lose. But that’s a big part of being a real fan. A loss hurts but you don’t condemn the players or coach of the team that you’re supposedly a fan of.

    • Rixter
      8:42 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Not a lot to smile about this morning, but Slater saying something stupid, then logging in with another account to agree with himself always amuses me. Thanks, moron… I needed that

  2. wb6690
    7:19 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    I’ll forever remember PJ Washington as the guy who missed extremely important free throws in back to back NCAA tournaments

    • CatfaninCinci
      7:23 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Crude. But true.

    • Lip Man 1
      7:30 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      It’s not just PJ though. UK has been terrible for years now at the line in the tournament. Look at the Kansas State game…look at two games vs. UConn and there are others.Yet Cal refuses to make mandatory free throw shooting a part of every practice claiming guys need to do it on their own.

      How many times does UK have to lose games in large part because of bad free throw shooting before he changes his ways?

      Maybe the biggest single thing to come out of the new early entry rules will be Cal having guys stick around for two or three years where he can make the time for the little things that win big games. He won’t have the excuse of “there’s limited practice time” because guys are leaving in a season so other things have to be worked on.

      If a kid is staying for two or three years, they’ll be plenty of time.

    • Luether
      7:50 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Very true. Choking last year as a Freshman against K St was one thing, but today against an inferior Auburn Team was devastating…

    • syrin23
      8:08 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Sadly, that will be his legacy despite playing through an injury, and being our only offensive threat on the day.

    • BigBlueToo
      8:57 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      P. J . Played through pain. He gave it his all. These are kids. “Fans” like you need to find another source of entertainment.

    • Tango98
      12:33 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      I guess you haven’t turned on a tv, radio or computer in the last year. Honestly, we might not have made it out of the first round without PJ this year….because w/o PJ we are an 8 or 9 seed and done. You probably only have childhood memories of being spanked and sitting in the corner. Go Cats!!!

    • henderblue
      6:27 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Wouldn’t have gotten where we were without PJ.

  3. guus
    7:22 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Gonna be a long 6 months…here’s to hoping some of these kids come back and improve their stock. Ironically, Auburns guards completely out played Ky’s, and theyll get no NBA mention, probably ever. Meanwhile, most of Ky’s will get drafted, and get that contract…i love our beloved wildcats more than anything, and I really hope they learn from Pj and see what an extra year can do for their decelopment and selfishly, my Ky wildcats.

  4. ScoggDog
    7:26 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    A bold strategy – just throw new post after new post until the mood of the fans change.

    Tom Jurich would approve.

  5. Game Changer
    7:31 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    The Game is over!! Why I think we lost:

    -Hagan’s decision making was very poor. In Cal’s era the guard play dictates the entire game!!

    -Free throw shooting was abysmal: I actually think it had to do with tired legs.

    -Having Herro guard the best player on the other team, maybe not very smart… he gets so worn out that he can’t find his offense. We needed his offense much more than his defense.

    -EJ and Nick unfortunately did not live up to the hype and expectation… if only they did, WOW!!

    -The officiating was poor for both sides, but hurt UK more with changing the flow of the game.

    -Keldon makes poor decisions…a lot of times. Lots of talent but not very smart player.

    -The Guard play was horrible all around… you know its one thing for Hagan to be terrible, but when IQ, Herro and Baker are all terrible too, then no way to win.

    Last thing: I think UK is going to be deep and very very good next year!!

    • syrin23
      8:09 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Except for your last statement, I totally agree. The last statement we say every year before disappointing tourney run.

    • KYCat4EVER
      5:42 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Game Changer? The only DEEP thing is what your piling up!

      We need a COACH CHANGER! LOL


    • Rixter
      8:48 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      that Jared Harper has some strong legs!

  6. 4everUKblue
    7:33 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Ok I’m disappointed we lost, Auburn beat UNCheat by 20, destroyed KU, and barely beat us with our offense being stagnant. Now to all you Cal haters who believe K is the best coach out there….He had the #1,#2 and #4 players in the entire country and should have lost to UCF had the refs has any balls. This is four yrs in a row dUKe had the best roster in the country and sweet 16, round of 32 and two elite 8’s (not necessarily in that order), someone tell me what’s so great about that.

    • 4everUKblue
      7:33 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Where are you dukeisking, mashbumfanboy?

    • john dickshot
      7:38 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      I hate Coach K but Cal can’t hold his jockstrap in terms of accomplishments. 5 titles to 1. Coach K grabbed two titles when Cal had the best team at Kentucky (wall/cousins year and almost undefeated year)

    • 4everUKblue
      8:05 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      The go suck on K’s jockstrap fanboy!

    • syrin23
      8:42 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Name calling changed which fact?

  7. BigJohnC
    7:37 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Sure be nice to have pj back lol. Oh well this was a fun team to watch. Get ready for November

  8. BigJohnC
    7:39 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Did duke get beat?

  9. Smyrna_Cat
    7:44 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    It was a good year. Tough loss, but it happens.

    • ScoggDog
      7:50 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Cal’s developing a habit of taking a “tough loss” every year.

      Tubby got fired for that. As he should.

    • 4everUKblue
      8:05 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      you might want to compare Tubby’s track record to Cal’s Scoggjackass!

    • ScoggDog
      8:12 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Would love to … 4everCalsJock …

      Last four years …

      Elite Eight
      Sweet Sixteen
      Elite Eight
      Round of 32

      Tubby was more consistent – with less talent – right up until he was fired. And he should have been.

    • syrin23
      8:43 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Tubby – 1 title
      Cal – 1 title

    • syrin23
      8:43 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Texas Tech might have as many titles as Cal come next week.

    • speaksthetruth
      11:51 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      That would mean they have the best coach in the world because they would have more championships than any other team over the last year.

    • ukbradstith
      8:46 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

      Tubby was consistently worse, yes, so there’s that, and it was evident we were on a downhill slide. We have a legit shot at the final four now almost every year.

  10. Luether
    7:53 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    An honest account of what happened, Jack…

  11. Kerosenerag
    8:46 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Oh well that’s the breaks….but it hurts more when your team beats themselves. Hope most of these guys come back. And elite point gaurd is crucial and Ashton was supposed to be in highschool this year and that showed for the most part. It was fun while it lasted! Go Big Blue?

  12. Kerosenerag
    8:46 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    Oh well that’s the breaks….but it hurts more when your team beats themselves. Hope most of these guys come back. And elite point gaurd is crucial and Ashton was supposed to be in highschool this year and that showed for the most part. It was fun while it lasted! Go Big Blue?

  13. Mc12
    11:43 pm March 31, 2019 Permalink

    5 attempts for Travis? He was one of our clear mismatches. He made 4 out of 5…..5 attempts? That’s it? Idk, I’d probably force feed the ball to the post if my guards were lost…

  14. Tango98
    12:16 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    Jack, WAIT!, you were frustrated with the Free Throws. I thought we were not allowed to be frustrated as UK fans, ever for anything…..
    You are wrong to be frustrated with the FT’s, we hit them all year and will certainly hit them next year. The nerve you have being frustrated………?

  15. C4TF4N
    1:47 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    While I hate that Kentucky lost…I’m actually very happy for Auburn. Bruce Pearl has really turned that program around. They have an SEC Championship, and God willing, it’d be amazing if they could win the National Championship. Congrats to them!

  16. Righteous1
    2:38 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    Lot of interesting stories in the Final Four this year. Texas Tech 1st time in FF. Auburn 1st time in FF. They beat Kansas, UNC and Kentucky in a row. Sounds like Arizona from 1997. Virginia first FF since 1984. Michigan State has not won a championship since 2000. The other 3 teams have never won one. I like these matchups. It would be interesting if Virginia wins a title the next year after losing to a 16 seed.

  17. bbn606
    4:27 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    This team probably overachieved. Inconsistency was their biggest downfall.

  18. Headhurts
    7:10 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    All I know is that if Cal had Dukes players this year and lost fans and media would crush him let’s see how coach Shitshefski fairs with fans and media after a big time choke.

    • weneedsanity
      7:48 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Actually,that’s a fine idea! Go ahead! Jump on a dookie website. See what they are,or what they aren’t saying. I can assure you it’s not even close to the garbage spilling out here. Give it a shot and let us know. GO CATS! And go batshit fans!

  19. timer2
    7:57 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    Give Auburn credit. They beat UT and UNC by around 20. Our guys took them to OT. I know our guys made some mistakes – Cal did too – but overall they played a great game against a great team.

    I wish all our players – and coaches – the ability to put this loss behind them and move on with their lives. I wish them all the best.

  20. Jiminy Crickets
    8:54 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    When are we going to talk about what actually beats Cal in the tourney every year?? I get FTs but the one thing that beats us and has cost us when we get to ER or FF is switching on every ball screen. Yesterday auburn set screens at top of key, knowing UK would switch, until they got one of their 2 guards on Travis… basket.
    Wisconsin did it to us, Kstate did it, UNC did it. It’s the blue print to beat UK

    • Jiminy Crickets
      8:57 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      EE not ER

  21. Rixter
    8:59 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    both South Carolina and Auburn have been to the Final Four since UK. Duke had the greatest roster of freshman talent in history, and didn’t make it this year. The 2012 UK team was the only freshman lead team to win a championship.
    gotta face the facts… good, experienced talent will usually beat superior freshman talent. That has been proven out over the last 10 years. It might be time for the programs taking one-and-done talent to re-evaluate their recruiting strategy. I’m not saying don’t take them, but you need in also intersperse some 3 and 4 year talent in as well

    • makeitstop
      9:17 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Fair enough, and true enough but it’s hard unless u take grad transfers. Problem is the most talented will be the 5 stars wanting a chance to go after a year, and they’ll hv to play. How do u get the 3/4 stars experience on the court to make them “experienced veterans”? The NBA rule may take care of this to an extent, but I think recruiting grad transfers OR transfer portal guys after coaching changes may be the answer. Cal is a good guy who genuinely didn’t want to hurt other coaches but to fix that aspect u raised I don’t see any other way.

  22. makeitstop
    9:10 am April 1, 2019 Permalink

    The game plan was to run them off the 3 pt line and make them drive, holding them under 10 3’s. Did that. It was to keep the game in regulation to 140 pts basically, did that easily. It was to outrebounded them. Check. Cal said “we need to hit 7-8 3’s ourselves”. Nope. I’m sure there is no adjustment from the bench for “can’t hit FT all of a sudden.” There is no adjustment for my kids can’t shoot. I think someone above mentioned maybe hvg Herro guard their best guy was a mistake bc he had tired legs and that’s fair. Lots of other people complained their guards went around ours to drive: that was the plan. The problem yesterday was simply we couldn’t shoot, and there isn’t a tweak for that. Defensively we were solid. But blaming Cal in a sweeping “can’t coach” attack isn’t accurate but it’s also not UK fans it’s fans of UL, Duke, UNC, Cincy, IU or others who’d love to set u back. We have more success over the past 10 years than any other program. Period. We’d have had one or two more titles but for a certain roofer, and if those games go the other way, Duke and UNC both hv one less. For god sake get some perspective. It took Rupp40 years to win 4. K has been at Duke for almost that long. We hv been team of the decade this decade and the 90’s. That’s 2 out of 3. What the hell do u want?

    • Rixter
      1:49 pm April 1, 2019 Permalink

      Agreed, and the game plan worked, but wouldn’t it have been wise to have a shot blocker waiting at the rim when those guards drove the lane? So many times we ran them off the 3-point line right into an uncontested layup