Forward Kenny Walker scored eight of his 24 points in the final 5:19 to lift eighth-ranked Kentucky to an 81-71 victory over Auburn in a Southeastern Conference basketball game last night in Lexington, Ky.

Kentucky (18-2, 9-1) appeared comfortably ahead when Walker hit a jumper in the lane for a 59-46 lead with 12:46 left in the game. But Auburn (12-7, 6-3), with forward Chuck Person (24 points) hitting three baskets, went on a 17-4 run to pull even at 63 with 6:29 left.

Walker scored six of Kentucky's next eight points as the Wildcats took a 71-65 lead. Auburn came back to 71-69 on guard Frank Ford's two free throws at 2:08. Kentucky scored eight straight points to clinch its eighth consecutive victory.

On Jan. 6, Auburn built a 16-point lead and then held off a Kentucky rally to give the Wildcats their only conference loss, 60-56.

Of last night's victory, Kentucky Coach Eddie Sutton said: "That was one of the best college basketball games I've been associated with for a long time. I was impressed with (the Tigers) tonight. They played better tonight in losing than they did in winning. I was proud of the whole ball club . . . . We, too, played an excellent basketball game."

*Oregon St. 58, California 42: In Corvallis, Ore., center Jose Ortiz scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half to pace the Beavers (9-7, 5-3) to a Pacific-10 victory over the Golden Bears (13-5, 5-3). Oregon State never trailed but led by only 24-20 at halftime.

*Yale 54, Harvard 45: In New Haven, Conn., Yale took a 9-0 lead and never trailed in the Ivy League game, giving it a 82-49 lead in the series. Sophomore John Rice led Yale (9-8, 3-2) with a career-high 14 points. Harvard is 4-12, 0-4.