Lexington, Ky. — Top-ranked Kentucky manhandled Auburn at the start, shook off an early second-half lull and closed with a flourish that threatened a couple of milestones before the Wildcats matched the program’s longest winning streak.
Good things happen when Kentucky seemingly can’t miss from the field.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 19 points to lead six Kentucky players in double figures, and the Wildcats recorded their highest scoring total since 2002 with a 110-75 blowout of Auburn on Saturday night that extended their best start ever. Kentucky also equaled the 1995-96 squad’s school-record 27-game winning streak, a performance that culminated with its sixth NCAA title.
Kentucky (27-0, 14-0 Southeastern Conference ) surpassed 100 points each in preseason wins over lower-level Pikeville and Georgetown College but hadn’t scored at least 110 points in a regular-season game since beating Tennessee State 115-87 on Dec. 30, 2002. Aaron Harrison’s two free throws with 3:18 left broke the century mark in a game that was never in doubt as the Wildcats scored the first nine points and poured it on. He finished with 18.
Dakari Johnson added 13 points, Andrew Harrison 12, Devin Booker 11 and Tyler Ulis 10, as Kentucky shot a season-best 65 percent from the field. The Wildcats dominated the paint 62-24, outrebounded the Tigers 44-22 and tied a season high with 25 assists.
Though short of the 120 points Kentucky scored against Vanderbilt on Feb. 7, 1996, it was the Wildcats’ first 100-point game against a Southeastern Conference foe since beating Arkansas 101-70 on Jan. 23, 2010.
“We cherish these moments,” said Towns, who also grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots. “Not every game is going to be like this. We executed, played great defense and also made a lot of shots.”
Antoine Mason scored a game-high 29 points including five 3-pointers for Auburn (12-15, 4-10), which lost for the eighth time in 11 games.
The Wildcats’ was keeping SEC scoring leader K.T. Harrell (17.9 points per game) and teammates Cinmeon Bowers (13.1) and Mason (14.9) in check. Mason eventually warmed up from the perimeter to lead the Tigers’ 11-of-19 shooting from behind the arc while Harrell added 17 points, but neither contribution mattered against Kentucky.
“The whole idea was you got to be on these three (players),” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “They can score and they can score a bunch and they did. Mason had 29 and could have had more. Harrell had 17. … When they felt they could get baskets, they got into a comfort level and made shots. If you didn’t guard them, they were going to make shots.”
Auburn didn’t make many early on in a long night for the Tigers and first-year coach Bruce Pearl.
Kentucky sprinted to a 23-2 lead that eventually reached 27 points late in the first half. Until Jordon Granger’s jumper with 9:03 left made it 30-6, the Wildcats seemed headed toward surpassing their season-low seven first-half points allowed to UCLA in December. Kentucky only outscored Auburn 22-20 for the rest of the half but still led 52-26 at the break.
“Any run they get is an advantage,” Mason said. “We didn’t start the game off like we wanted to and they hit us in our mouths first.”
No. 3 Gonzaga 70, (at) Saint Mary’s 60: Kyle Wiltjer had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Gonzaga rallied from 17 points down to beat Saint Mary’s.
The Bulldogs (28-1, 16-0) claimed the West Coast Conference championship outright and rolled up a school-record 21st straight victory. Wiltjer teamed with Przemek Karnowski to make some big shots down the stretch and keep the Zags on track for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Karnowski finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Brad Waldow had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Aaron Bright scored 17 points for Saint Mary’s (20-7, 12-4).
(At) No. 4 Duke 78, Clemson 56: Quinn Cook matched a career high with 27 points for Duke, and the Jahlil Okafor-less Blue Devils routed Clemson.
Three freshmen — Justise Winslow (20 points), Tyus Jones (11) and Grayson Allen (10) — also reached double figures to help Duke (24-3, 11-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) win its seventh straight.
With the 6-foot-11 Okafor out with a sprained left ankle, the Blue Devils went small and quick. They scored 19 fast-break points and outscored the Tigers 42-30 in the paint, largely on drives and layups.
Jaron Blossomgame had 10 points to lead Clemson (15-12, 7-8).
No. 6 Villanova 87, (at) Marquette 76: Darrun Hilliard scored 17 points, and Ryan Arcidiacono added 16 for Villanova.
Dylan Ennis and JayVaughn Pinkston each had 14 to help Villanova (25-2, 12-2 Big East) extend its winning streak to eight games.
Jujuan Johnson scored 20 points and Luke Fischer added 17 points for Marquette (11-15, 3-11), which dropped its third straight and fell to 0-6 against ranked teams.
(At) No. 7 Arizona 57, UCLA 47: Gabe York scored 13 points and Dusan Ristic added 12, providing Arizona an unexpected lift in a difficult victory over UCLA.
Arizona (24-3, 11-2 Pac-12) was abysmal offensively to start both halves and allowed UCLA to rally from a 14-point halftime deficit. UCLA scored the first 17 points of the second half to take the lead.
Ristic and York helped Arizona out of its first-half funk, combining for 22 of Arizona’s 32 points.
T.J. McConnell scored six of his 11 points in the final 1:14 to help the Wildcats seal it, stretching their home-winning streak to 36 games.
Bryce Alford had 22 points for UCLA (16-12, 8-7).
(At) No. 8 Kansas 81, TCU 72: Perry Ellis scored 23 points, Devonte’ Graham added a career-high 20 and Kansas bounced back from a frustrating loss to hold off foul-plagued TCU.
Ellis, who blew a potential winning layup at the buzzer in Monday night’s loss in West Virginia, quieted a host of critics who lit him up on social media this week. He finished 9 of 10 from the floor, added seven rebounds and even had a couple of assists.
Frank Mason III added 14 points and five assists for the Jayhawks (22-5, 11-4), who held onto their one-game lead over Iowa State with four left in the Big 12 race. Kansas also extended its winning streak in the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse to 22 games.
Trey Zeigler had 20 points to lead the Horned Frogs (16-11, 3-11)
No. 10 Notre Dame 87, (at) Boston College 70: Bonzie Colson had 16 points and six rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench, leading Notre Dame to a victory over Boston College.
Demetrius Jackson added 15 points and Jerian Grant had 10 points and 11 assists for the Irish, who shot 75 in the second half and 66 percent for the game. Notre Dame (24-4, 12-3) is off to its best start since starting 25-2 in 1973-74.
Olivier Hanlan scored 19 points for BC (9-17, 1-13 ACC).
(At) No. 11 Northern Iowa 56, Bradley 39: Nate Buss and Wes Washpun each scored 11 points off the bench and Northern Iowa rolled past Bradley to match a school record with its 15th straight win.
Seth Tuttle added nine points and eight rebounds for the Panthers (26-2, 15-1 Missouri Valley).
Josh Cunningham and Nate Wells each had six points for Bradley (8-21, 3-13). The Braves are the fourth team that Northern Iowa has held to 40 points or less during Valley play.
(At) No. 12 Louisville 55, Miami 53: Montrezl Harrell had 21 points, 14 rebounds and key free throws in the final minute to lift Louisville past Miami.
With Louisville down 53-52, the Cardinals’ Terry Rozier tipped Deandre Burnett’s pass into the hands of Harrell with 55 seconds left. That set up Chris Jones’ drive and pass to Harrell on the opposite end. He was fouled on a layup and hit two free throws with 35.6 seconds left to put the Cardinals up for good.
Jones scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half for Louisville (21-6, 9-5 Atlantic Coast Conference). He returned from a one-game suspension.
Sheldon McClellan had 17 points for Miami (17-10, 7-7).
No. 14 Iowa State 85, (at) Texas 77: Georges Niang and Matt Thomas scored 17 points for Iowa State.
Iowa State (20-6, 10-4 Big 12) won its second straight Big 12 road game, something the Cyclones had not accomplished since the 2005-06 season. They had lost six straight at Texas since their only victory over the Longhorns in Austin in 2005.
Kendal Yancy led Texas (17-10, 6-8) with a career-best 29 points, 18 more than his average. He scored 21 points in the second half. Isaiah Taylor added 23.
(At) No. 15 North Carolina 89, Georgia Tech 60: North Carolina opened the game by scoring on a “Four Corners” play as a tribute to the late Dean Smith, then rolled to an 89-60 victory over Georgia Tech.
Smith was known for using the Four Corners to spread the floor and work the clock, which ultimately helped lead to the implementation of a shot clock in college basketball.
The Hall of Famer, who retired in 1997 as the winningest coach in men’s Division I history with 879 wins, died two weeks ago, but this was UNC’s first home game since his death. There was a pregame moment of silence and the school has scheduled a public memorial Sunday in the campus arena bearing his name.
The Tar Heels (19-8, 9-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) had lost four of five, including Wednesday night’s potentially crushing failure to close out No. 4 Duke in an overtime loss.
Kennedy Meeks scored 18 points for the Tar Heels. Marcus Georges-Hunt had 15 for Georgia Tech (12-15, 3-12).
No. 17 Oklahoma 79, (at) Texas Tech 75 (OT): Isaiah Cousins scored 22 points and Frank Booker added a career-high 17 points in Oklahoma’s overtime victory over Texas Tech.
Buddy Hield hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Cousins made a field goal and two free throws to help the Sooners (19-8, 10-5 Big 12) seal the win.
Toddrick Gotcher scored 18 and Keenan Evans added 17 for Texas Tech (12-16, 2-13).
No. 18 Arkansas 65, (at) Mississippi State 61: Rashad Madden scored 16 points, Michael Qualls added 14 and Arkansas rallied to beat Mississippi State.
Arkansas (22-5, 11-3) held Mississippi State scoreless for more than 6 minutes late in the second half to take control. The Razorbacks have won six straight games.
Mississippi State (12-15, 5-9) looked as if it had a good chance to pull the upset until its offense fell apart down the stretch. The Bulldogs went nearly 8 minutes without a field goal until Craig Sword made a 3-pointer with 33.1 seconds remaining to cut the Razorbacks’ lead to 60-57.
Mississippi State pulled to 61-59, but Arkansas’ Anton Beard had a crucial steal with 12 seconds left.
(At) Xavier 73, No. 19 Butler 56: Myles Davis scored 18 points, and Xavier never trailed during a victory over Butler, the Musketeers’ fourth win over a Top 25 team this season.
The Musketeers (18-10, 8-7 Big East) blew the game open at the start of the second half, with Davis hitting a pair of 3s that sparked a 15-6 run. The victory added to their momentum from a 59-57 win over crosstown rival Cincinnati on the Bearcats’ court Wednesday night.
Butler (19-8, 9-5) shot only 35 percent from the field and had 14 turnovers during its most lopsided loss of the season. Roosevelt Jones had 14 points.
(At) No. 20 Baylor 69, Kansas State 42: Taurean Prince scored 14 points, Rico Gathers had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Baylor secured another 20-win season under coach Scott Drew.
Prince also had five steals and five assists for the Bears (20-7, 8-6 Big 12), who have seven of the school’s 10 seasons with 20 wins since Drew arrived in 2003.
Thomas Gipson scored 11 points to lead the Wildcats (13-15, 6-9).
No. 23 West Virginia 73, (at) Oklahoma State 63: Juwan Staten scored 22 points and had seven assists, Gary Browne added a career-high 18 points and West Virginia beat Oklahoma State.
Browne, who also had eight rebounds, scored 16 of his points in the second half for West Virginia (21-6, 9-5 Big 12). Le’Bryan Nash had 12 points and four assists for Oklahoma State (17-10, 7-8).
(At) No. 25 VCU 78, Massachusetts 72: Treveon Graham scored 24 points and VCU rebounded after blowing a 16-point lead.
JeQuan Lewis added 15 and Moe Alie-Cox had 12 for the Rams (21-6, 11-3 Atlantic 10).
Jabarie Hinds scored 16 points for UMass (16-11, 9-5).