Junior Blair Green scored 18 points as the 12th-ranked Kentucky women’s team held off Auburn 76-71 at Auburn Arena.
Green, who set a new career high with 22 points on Sunday, continued her strong play on Thursday, hitting seven of nine from the field, including two of three from behind the arc, and making both of her free throws. The Harlan County (Ky.) native added three rebounds and an assist.
UK All-American Rhyne Howard had 14 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot in the game. Robyn Benton and Dre’una Edwards each had 10 points for the Cats.
Three-point shooting was critical in the game, as Kentucky made 10 of 28 (35.7 percent) from behind the arc, while Auburn made just five of 19 (26.3 percent).
Kentucky (11-3, 4-2 SEC) scored first on a right-side three from Chasity Patterson but Auburn scored the next four to take their first lead, 4-3. The Cats answered on a three from KeKe McKinney to lead 6-4. Auburn would again score four in a row to lead 8-6 before Jazmine Massengill hit a three to give UK at 9-8 lead with 5:56 left in the first period.
The lead would change hands twice more before Kentucky went on a 9-2 run to take an 18-12 lead with 2:26 left in the period. Howard was key in the run, hitting a three and assisting on a Tatyana Wyatt layup.
Kentucky would get a pair of Edwards baskets late in the first period and would lead 22-17 after 10 minutes of action. Seven Cats scored in the first period.
The Cats scored first in the second period on an Olivia Owens jumper in the paint. After Auburn made a pair of free throws, the teams would trade baskets, with the UK lead staying between four and seven. That’s until Green hit a three from the wing to give the Cats a 32-24 advantage with 4:34 left in the half.
After Auburn got a three from Jala Jordan, Kentucky would score six in a row, four of which were by Green, to lead 38-27 with 2:41 left in the half. However, Auburn would score five of the last seven points in the half and Kentucky would hold a 40-32 lead at the half. Benton and Green led UK with seven points in the first half.
As the third quarter started, Green stayed hot for the Cats, hitting a three to extend the UK lead to 43-32. Kentucky would eventually stretch the lead to as many as 14, at 52-38, on another Green basket, this one with 5:41 left in the third.
Auburn would not go away quietly. The Tigers went on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to 54-48 with 3:01 left in the third, prompting a UK timeout. That’s when Howard struck, hitting a three, then a layup to give the Cats a 59-48 lead with 1:28 left in the third quarter. UK would lead 59-50 after three periods.
Like she did in the third quarter, Green got Kentucky going in the fourth, hitting a jumper inside the paint to extend the UK lead to 61-50. Auburn would get a Unique Thompson basket before Howard drilled a three to give the Cats a 64-52 lead with 9:04 to play.
Later in the fourth, Kentucky would take a 71-60 lead on a McKinney layup with 2:43 to play. But Auburn responded with a 7-1 run to cut the UK lead to 72-67 with 1:07 to play. The Cats would hit four free throws inside the final minute to seal the win.