BIG BLUE FANS FOR
The Cats have returned home from a two game road swing through Baton Rouge and Knoxville long enough to get clean laundry and pick up a game at Rupp against Texas A&M before heading back out on the road for another two game swing that will take the Cats through Nashville and Columbia, South Carolina. After struggling at Rupp against Georgia in the SEC opener, the Cats fought from behind to get a tough 3-point road win in Baton Rouge. However, despite building an 8-point halftime lead over the Volunteers in Knoxville on Saturday night, the Cats were not up to the challenge that Tennessee would present in the second half.
You should recall that after an extremely strong non-conference pre-SEC season, Tennessee lost their first two conference games, at Arkansas and to Auburn in Knoxville. for the fight that Tennessee brought to them in the second half. These two losses put the Volunteers clearly behind the 8 ball, and no one should be surprised by the intensity of their fight against the Cats to stop their hemorrhaging with a home win over the Cats. However, it appeared that the Cats were surprised by it because they appeared totally unprepared to meet it with intensity and urgency of their own. The result was a mismatch of intensity that produced a mismatch on the scoreboard in the second half of 47-28.
If the Cats failed to learn the lesson that Kentucky is every SEC opponents' super bowl, and when that SEC team is wounded, the battle against that wounded SEC team spells “double, double, toil and trouble” as Will Shakespeare warned us all those centuries ago. This is a lesson that the Cats must have mastered before Tuesday night when a wounded Texas A&M Aggies arrive at Rupp. Like Tennessee, Texas A&M also posted an impressive pre-SEC record, taking regular residence in the Pomeroy Top 10 following their opening game 23 point whipping of a very good West Virginia team (88-65). However, the Aggies has subsequently lost all three of their SEC games, at Alabama by 22, and at home to Florida by 17, and to LSU by 1.
“Double, double toil and trouble” certainly is in play for the Cats again on Tuesday night.
Texas A&M's win over #11 West Virginia is not the Aggies only impressive non-conference win. Texas A&M has also beaten #59 Oklahoma State by 17, #39 Penn State by 11, #54 USC by 16, #55 Northern Kentucky by 6, and #98 Buffalo by 16. The Aggies' only non-conference loss this season was at #21 Arizona by 3.
TEXAS A&M has started this season with a 11-4 record and an ANE of 0.201 ppp (#28) after having played a schedule strength of 0.056 ppp (#31).
The Cats return home ranked #38 with an ANE of 0.181 ppp after having played a schedule with a schedule strength of 0.058 ppp (#29). The ANE analysis has the Cats favored by 1 point, 74-73 in a game played at a pace of 76 possessions. Pomeroy has the Cats favored by 4, 71-67 with a pace of 70 possessions.
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Coach Calipari will start Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, and Hamidou Diallo. Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones will provide the only real bench help even though Jarred Vanderbilt returned to practice yesterday, he will not be game ready yet according to Coach Calipari, and Quade Green and Tai Wynyard are unavailable due to injury.
The Cats control the opening tip and score quickly. However, Texas A&M answers with a 3 pointer to take an early lead. Texas A&M moves on top 5-2 and 7-3 before the Cats use two 3 pointers to pull even at 9-9 at the under 16 media timeout. However, Kevin Knox picked up his second foul and will go to the bench. In the opening segment, the Cats turned the ball over twice to no Aggie turnovers. Each team grabbed 1 offensive rebound, but Texas A&M has a 2-1 advantage with second chance points. In the second segment, Texas A&M moved back on top by 5, scoring a basket and a 3 pointer around the Cats' third turnover of the game. The Cats chipped the 5 point lead to 2 points, 18-16, at the under 12 media timeout.
Kevin Knox returned to the floor during the timeout with his two fouls. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander makes back to back baskets on drives down the left side of the lane to give the Cats a 2 point lead, 20-18. After the Aggies catch up at 20-20, the Cats score the next 6 points to take the biggest lead of the game at 6 points before Texas A&M uses their third 3 pointer of the game to stop the small run. The Cats lead by 3, 26-23, at the under 8 media timeout, and the Cats have the possession. The Cats open the fourth segment with back to back turnovers, and Texas A&M trims the lead to a single point, 26-25. In the 4 th segment, the Cats reclaimed the lead, 30-29, at the under 4 media timeout with 3:10 remaining and Texas A&M in possession.
The Cats finish the first half strong and take a 2 point lead, 37-35, to the locker room.
The Cats scored 37 points on 32 possessions, 1.156 points per possession, and TEXAS A&M managed their 35 points on 32 possessions, 1.094 ppp. The Cats made 47.8% of their first half shots, including 4-10 from outside the arc. TEXAS A&M managed to make 42.9% of their first half shots, including 4-11 from outside the arc.
The Cats committed 6 turnovers in the first half while TEXAS A&M committed 4 turnovers.
The Cats made 11-14 from the line (78.6%) and TEXAS A&M made 7-10 from the line (70.0%).
On the Boards, the Cats controlled the boards with a 17-14 advantage, and Kentucky and TEXAS A&M each grabbed 5 offensive rebounds. The Cats converted its 5 second chance possessions into 8 points and TEXAS A&M used its 5 second chance possessions to score 4 points. The Cats secured 35.7% of their misses and allowed TEXAS A&M to grab 29.4% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
Texas A&M opens the second half with a turnover, but the Cats could not capitalize. After Texas A&M pulled even on a pair of free thows, the Cats commit a turnover, and the Aggies take the lead on a 3 pointer. After another Kentucky turnover, Texas A&M drains another 3 pointer from the left corner to move out to their biggest lead of the game, 5 points, 44-39, prompting a timeout by Coach Calipari with 17:20 remaining. The Aggies are doing to the Cats the same thing Tennessee did to the Cats at the beginning of the second half with a 9-2 opening margin. After the timeout, the Cats committed their 3 rd turnover of the second half, 9 th of the game. However, the Aggies sandwich a missed shot around a pair of turnovers, and Hamidou Diallo brings the Cats back into a tie on 1 of 2 from the line, a pull up jump shot, and a layup off Texas A&M's second turnover. At the under 16 media timeout, the score is tied, 44-44.
In the second segment of the second half, the teams traded baskets, with Texas A&M getting their 4 th as compared to the Cats' 3 just before the under 12 media timeout. The Aggies lead 53-51 with 11:22 remaining and the Cats in possession of the ball.
In the third segment, Texas A&M extended their lead to a game high 6 points, 59-53. The Cats managed to trim a pair off, but trail by 4, 61-57, at the under 8 media timeout with only 6:37 remaining and Texas A&M in possession. In the fourth segment, the Cats claw back to within 2 points, 63-61, and Hamidou Diallo will be at the line for a pair of free throws after the under 4 media timeout with 3:57 remaining.
Hamidou Diallo makes them both, so we have a 3:57 game. On the next pair of possessions, Texas A&M gets a basket after the UK defense knocks the ball loose but it bounces to an Aggie player near the basket to put it in, and UK gets another pair of free throws to a 67-67 tie with 2:30 remaining. Then, PJ Washington gets a steal and Kevin Knox gets a layup to give the Cats a 2 point lead with 2:14 remaining. Texas A&M takes a timeout. The Aggies turn it over again, and the Cats get 1 of 2 free throws to extend their fragile lead to 3 points, 70-67, with 1:45 left in the game. After another Texas A&M turnover, PJ Washington extends the Cats to a 5 point lead, 72-67. However, the Cats turn over the ball between a pair of free throw opportunities by Texas A&M. The first trip, the Aggies made 1 of 2 and the second the Aggies hit 1 of 2 to trim the lead to 3 points, 72-69. PJ Washington is fouled with 37 seconds remaining. And makes 1 of 2 free throws. Texas A&M goes over the UK defense for an easy basket to trim the lead to 2 points, 73-71 with 31 seconds left, and Texas A&M burns its last timeout.
The Cats turn the ball over on the inbounds pass, but Texas A&M misses from 3 point range. Kevin Knox gets a huge rebound and is fouled. Kevin Knox makes 1 of 2 to give the Cats a 3 point lead with 15 seconds left in the game. Texas A&M missed from outside the arc in the right corner, but got the tap in to cut the lead to 1 point. PJ Washington was fouled with 4 seconds left. PJ Washington missed them both, but Texas A&M could not get the ball down to score. Cats win 74-73.
UK scored its 74 points on 66 possessions (1.121 ppp) for the game, and TEXAS A&M scored its 73 points on 66 possessions (1.106 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 28-27, but TEXAS A&M controlled the offensive glass 10-7. Kentucky used its 7 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points, and TEXAS A&M used its 10 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points. TEXAS A&M had an offensive efficiency of 0.939 ppp on its 66 first chance possessions and 1.100 ppp for its 10second chance possessions. UK had 0.954 ppp on its 66 first chance possessions and 1.571 ppp on its 7 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 29.2% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TEXAS A&M was able to convert 32.3% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK hit poorly from the free throw line in this game, making 24-43 [64.7%]. TEXAS A&M made 14-24 [58.3%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 24-52 overall [55.8%] and 4-12 from long range [33.3%]. For TEXAS A&M, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 19-31 [61.3%] and from long range, TEXAS A&M hit 7-21 [33.3%].
The Cats committed 12 turnovers, one for every 5.5 possessions. The Cats forced 12 TEXAS A&M turnovers, one for every 5.5 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Saturday against Vanderbilt in Nashville a 4 pm for the seventeenth regular season game and fifth SEC game of the 2017-18 season.
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks