Kentucky came into the game vs. A&M trying to get the stink of the UT loss from them. They faced a very talented Texas A&M team that has their backs against their wall. The Aggies are 0-3 in SEC play and need a win badly.

The Aggies, however, are now healthy and have the full complement of their roster. Kentucky, on the other hand, was going to be short their point guard Quade Green. Green was not dressed and not playing due to a back injury. Along with Tai Wynyard still out, this meant a shorthanded effort.

FIRST HALF

The defense that was so mediocre in the 2nd half vs. UT was immediately at work in Rupp tonight. Texas A&M outscored Kentucky 9-3 in the first 3 minutes of the game. Kentucky did make it an immediate comeback by hitting back to back 3’s to tie it at 9 at the under 16 timeout.

This seemed to spark an offensive explosion as the two teams decided to not miss any shots after that for the next 3 minutes. At one point A&M was 8-10 shooting and UK was 6-7 (3-3 from three).

The remainder of the half was a grind. Not necessarily a rock fight, but a whole lot of movement and possessions with not many points. Kentucky did a lot of their damage at the line (they went on a 7-minute drought with no field goals), and A&M did a lot of their damage with three-pointers and timely low post plays.

The half belonged to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as he posted 12 points and 3 rebounds and seemed to be able to get into the lane whenever he wanted to.

Kentucky once again saw foul trouble with Hamidou Diallo getting his 2nd foul with 5 minutes to go in the half. This meant Brad Calipari getting the last 4+ minutes in the game. No Hami, No Quade meant desperate times.

The lineup got even more interesting when Cal took out Brad; we saw a lineup of SGA, SKJ, Wenyen Gabriel, P.J. Washington, and Nick Richards.

The half ended with Kentucky somehow leading the game 37-35 due to a last few seconds three from Kevin Knox.

SECOND HALF

The Aggies opened up the half on a 9-2 run, prompting a timeout by Calipari, and a 44-39 Texas A&M lead. P.J. Washington also got 2 fouls in those 3 minutes to all of a sudden have 3 fouls with 17 minutes to go.

Kentucky immediately came back with a 5-0 run highlighted by a SGA steal and Diallo rim rocker to tie it at 44-44 and Rupp was rocking.

A&M and Kentucky seemed to get into a groove over the next few minutes. The two teams traded baskets back and forth and seemingly a bit of momentum would shift back and forth. One team felt like it was about to roll their way, only to see A&M hit a big three, or UK get an athletic finish at the rime.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo were instrumental in keeping the ‘Cats ahead or just behind and the score being 53-51 Aggies at the under 12 timeout.

At the under 8 timeout, Texas A&M lead Kentucky 61-57 and it felt like UK was hanging on for dear life. The ‘Cats seemed once again willing to defer to *anyone* willing to step up, instead of someone taking control.

P.J. Washington showed some signs of it, but without a fundamental change, UK was going to lose a 2nd straight league game.

A rock right broke out soon after and the game turned into a pressure cooker as each team could feel the pressure mounting on each possession.

After two free throws by Hamidou Diallo, the score was all knotted up at 63-63 with 3:57 to go in regulation. The shots gave Diallo 14 points in the second half and 18 for the game. To that point, Diallo, along with a sprinkle of SGA, was the dominant player in the second half.

Kentucky’s next four points would come at the line, while A&M’s was within a few feet of the basket. The whole night it felt like UK had to work so hard to score, and A&M either laid it in or had an open 3.

P.J. Washington made a HUGE defensive play by intercepting a lazy pass over his head and then hitting a streaking Kevin Knox for a tough layup. Kentucky lead 69-67 with 2:15 left and a battle to the end remaining.

An unforced error caused a massive A&M turnover and Kentucky some much needed time to burn the clock. P.J. Washington went to the free throw line (after an aggressive move to get fouled) and he hit 1 of 2 to give UK a 3-point lead with 1:30 to go.

A tip of the cap to the Rupp crowd as A&M’s Robert Williams got fouled but the pressure of the atmosphere was too big for him and he missed two free throws.

This would allow UK to get the game under 1:00, and P.J. Washington was able to find a seam and lay it in with the left hand for a 5-point lead and nearly full control of the game.

Kentucky put themselves into a position to just not turn it over, hit free throws and you would win. Unfortunately, a turnover by UK and a missed free throw followed by indefensible defense lead to 3 points as a gift to A&M and a 2 point game with 31.6 to go.

Kentucky would inexplicably turn it over AGAIN and give A&M a shot to take the lead. They would miss it and Kentucky would rebound, however, Kevin Knox only hit 1 of 2 free throws and it was a 3-point game with 15 seconds to go.

UK got lucky on a WIDE OPEN three-pointer miss, but a tip-in made it a 1 point game. P.J. Washington would go to the line for 2 shots. He would miss BOTH free throws, and with Texas A&M having zero timeouts, they had to try and go the length of the floor in 3.9. Kentucky was able to avoid disaster as a no-foul call and a pass out of bounds fell as time expired and UK escaped.

 

Image courtesy of Alex Slitz Photo