KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kentucky was stopped short of an 18th Final Four as Auburn beat the Wildcats 77-71 in overtime of the Midwest Region Final.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 7-0 lead as Ashton Hagans found Reid Travis for a lay-in, E.J. Montomery would get a block that led to a Tyler Herro lay-up and Keldon Johnson made two free throws.
After Auburn got with 4, P.J. Washington hit a short shot off the glass and then Immanuel Quickley and Herro hit back-to-back three pointers to push the lead to 17-7. UK would double up the Tigers as Washington hit another short shot to put the Cats up 22-11.
The Tigers got within five again when Washington scored five straight. First Keldon Johnson found him for a slam. Then, Hagans hit him for a short jumper and he was fouled. UK was back in front 27-17.
Auburn finished the half by hitting five of its last seven shots and went on a 10-5 run. Kentucky would go into the break up 35-30. P.J. Washington came off the bench to lead the Wildcats with 15 points while Johnson added 7 rebounds.
Auburn opened the half strong on a 12-2 run and it was mainly behind Bryce Brown. After he hit a three pointer, he was fouled on another attempt. After hitting the first two free throws, he missed the third but the rebound ended up in his hands where he hit another three. Auburn would lead by three, 40-37.
Kentucky would battle back. A floater from Keldon Johnson in the lane. Then, on a fast break, Quickley lobbed a pass to P.J. Washington and he was eye level with the rim when he slammed it in for a UK 45-44 lead.
Auburn got the lead back as Bryce Brown hit a three pointer and a couple of pull-up jumpers. After Daniel Purifoy hit a three the Tigers had their biggest lead at 54-50 with 7:44 to play in the game.
Keldon would hit a short jumper to get the Cats closer. Then, P.J. Washington started to take over. He would drive strong for a lay-up along the baseline. Then, after missing a shot he would get the rebound and put it back in to give UK a 60-58 lead with 51.9 seconds remaining in the game.
Jared Harper would hit a shot to tie the game and UK missed a chance to take the lead. At the buzzer, Horace Spencer’s shot was off the mark and the game would go to overtime tied at 60.
Auburn would strike first as Jared Harper drove for a lay-up to give the Tigers a 62-60 advantage. Harper would then hit a lay-up off an in-bounds play to put Auburn ahead 64-60.
Hagans finally got UK on the board with a driving lay-up with about 2:30 to go in the game. But, Auburn responded with a Anfernee McLemore lay-up. He followed that up with a steal and lay-up to give the Tigers a 68-62 lead.
After PJ hit a free throw to cut the lead to five, Harper made another driving lay-up to put the Tigers up 70-63. UK would respond as Hagans made a lay-up as he was fouled. He made the free throw with 1:01 to play and the Cats were down 70-66.
Harper would make two free throws to give Auburn a 72-66 lead. Keldon Johnson scored to cut the lead to 72-68 with 33.7 seconds remaining. After two more Harper free throws, Washington drained a three pointer to cut the deficit to 74-71 with 16.6 left in the game.
Samir Doughty went to the free throw line for Auburn and made one of two. Keldon Johnson had his shot blocked and Harper rebounded and was fouled with 9 seconds to go. He made both for a 77-71 Tigers lead. UK missed its final chance and Auburn earned its first ever trip to a Final Four. The Tigers beat UK 77-71 as the Wildcats season ends with a 31-7 record.
P.J. Washington had 28 points and 13 rebounds in what was likely his final game in a UK uniform.