NCAA Latest: Kentucky builds 35-30 halftime lead vs. Auburn

The Latest on the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament (all times Eastern):

3:15 p.m.

Kentucky is 20 minutes away from its 18th trip to the Final Four.

PJ Washington has come off the bench to score 15 points in just 14 minutes, and the second-seeded Wildcats are containing Auburn’s vast array of 3-point threats in building a 35-30 halftime lead.

The Tigers are fortunate to be that close.

They trailed by as many as 10 in the first half, and foul trouble along their depleted front line gave Kentucky an opportunity to put the game away early. But diminutive guard Jared Harper scored all of his eight first-half points in the final 3:33 to keep the SEC tourney champs in the game.

The winner gets a date with Virginia in the national semifinals in Minneapolis.

— Dave Skretta reporting from Kansas City, Missouri.


3 p.m.

Kentucky is pounding away at Auburn in the paint and the fouls are quickly piling up.

The forward trio of Malik Dunbar, Horace Spencer and Austin Wiley had picked up two fouls apiece by the 10-minute mark of the first half, forcing Tigers coach Bruce Pearl to begin shuffling lineups.

Dunbar checked back into the game and earned his third with 4:44 to go.

That foul trouble is particularly troublesome without Chuma Okeke, their 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, who tore the ACL in his left knee against North Carolina on Friday night.

P.J. Washington came off the bench for Kentucky and already has 11 points, taking advantage of his size in the post. Keldon Johnson has pulled down six boards for the Wildcats.

— Dave Skretta reporting from Kansas City, Missouri.


2:40 p.m.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl admitted his team would need to shoot lights-out to beat Kentucky, and midway through the first half the Tigers were still searching for the switch.

The team that knocked down 17 3-pointers in a regional semifinal win over North Carolina was 3 of 13 from the field and 1 of 6 from beyond the arc. Top sharpshooter Bryce Brown missed two wide-open looks in the first minute, and the Tigers are suddenly facing a big hole against a much bigger team.

Tyler Herro is back at it for the Wildcats, with five points, helping them to a 17-7 lead.

— Dave Skretta reporting from Kansas City, Missouri.


2 p.m.

Auburn forward Chuma Okeke will be rooting on his teammates as they face Kentucky for a spot in the Final Four.

The sophomore from Atlanta tore the ACL in his left knee late in the Tigers’ regional semifinal victory over North Carolina, and he is scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday in Alabama. In the meantime, Okeke remains with the team and is serving as a source of inspiration.

The hashtag “DoItForChuma” has been blazing across social media the past 24 hours.

The Tigers’ starting five will be Jared Harper, Bryce Brown and Malik Dunbar in the backcourt and Horace Spencer and Anfernee McLemoree down low. Junior forward Danjel Purifoy also should get more minutes with Okeke out of the rotation.

— Dave Skretta reporting from Kansas City, Missouri.


1:45 p.m.

Kentucky star P.J. Washington is expected to come off the bench when the second-seeded Wildcats face fifth-seeded Auburn in the Midwest regional final with a spot in the Final Four on the line.

Washington was in a cast last week to protect his sprained left foot, missing the first two games of the NCAA Tournament. But came back to play well in a semifinal win over Houston, scoring 16 points and making a key block that led to Tyler Herro’s go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute.

Washington said Saturday that he came out of the game in good shape, and it would be up to Kentucky coach John Calipari whether he started. EJ Montgomery is getting the nod instead alongside forward Reid Travis, Herro and fellow guards Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson.

— Dave Skretta reporting from Kansas City, Missouri.


12:30 p.m.

Two of college basketball’s most famed coaches go head to head Sunday for a spot in the Final Four.

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo face off in the East regional final of the NCAA Tournament. Krzyzewski has 12 Final Four trips and five national titles. Izzo has seven Final Four appearances and a national championship since taking over at Michigan State in 1995.

Izzo says he hopes the game is as good as the billing.

The Blue Devils have won nine of the past 10 and seven straight in the series, including a victory in the 2015 Final Four. Krzyzewski downplays that.

He says his team is playing the Michigan State of today, which is capable of defeating Duke.



Auburn already has NCAA Tournament wins over Kansas and North Carolina. Kentucky might be the next blue blood to fall.

The Tigers’ most recent loss was an 80-53 defeat at Kentucky. Since then, the Tigers have won 11 straight overall, including the SEC Tournament, on their way to the Elite Eight.

Auburn guard Bryce Brown says some losses in the middle of the season woke up his team.

Auburn will be without Chuma Okeke, who tore his left ACL in the win over North Carolina on Friday night. He’s scheduled for surgery on Tuesday.


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