Kentucky Holds Off Auburn, 54-47
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Taylor Murray may want to start inviting her mother Sonya to all of her home games.
With her mother looking on, Murray scored a career-high 14 points to lead No. 9 Kentucky to a 54-47 victory over Auburn on Sunday.
Murray, a freshman, hit a clutch 3-pointer with 1:40 remaining after Auburn rallied from a 47-37 deficit to pull within 47-45. Kentucky (14-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) made four of six free throws in the final minute to secure the win.
"I was just trying to play basketball and be there for my teammates," Murray said. "My mom can only come once in a while and it was good for her to be in this atmosphere."
In addition to her scoring contributions, Murray finished with six steals.
"Six steals for us was just so huge in a game like that, where possessions were so precious and not a lot of points being scored," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "It was a big-time performance. We would not have been successful today without her contributions."
Coming off a 73-62 loss to No. 2 South Carolina on Thursday, the Wildcats recovered to avoid a season sweep by the Tigers.
Kentucky, which blew a 17-point lead in a 66-61 loss to the Tigers on Jan. 3, used a strong second half to avoid a second straight home loss.
Makayla Epps had 13 points and Evelyn Akhator added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Akhator scored six points in the loss to the Gamecocks but bounced back and reached double figures for the 12th time this season.
Montgomery, who scored a season-high 27 points in an earlier win over the Wildcats, finished with 15 points for Auburn (12-6, 2-3).
The Wildcats trailed for most of the first 10 minutes but forced three ties and grabbed their first lead on a basket by Murray with 1:06 remaining in the quarter.
Kentucky stretched the margin to five points twice in the second quarter but the Tigers regained the lead at 18-17 on a 3-pointer by Katie Frerking with 4:40 left in the first half.
Epps scored just two points in the first half, but had five in the third quarter, including a 3-pointer as the Wildcats overcame a 22-21 halftime deficit to pull away from the Tigers in the second half.
From that point on, Kentucky never trailed. Mitchell credited his team for making the right adjustments in the second half to hold off the Tigers.
"They can really confuse you on defense and they had us confused in the first half," Mitchell said. "We didn't do ourselves any favors in the first half, we were going right into the teeth of their defense. They have a really, really strong defense and we weren't attacking it. You have to attack that zone, you can't be passive."