BIG BLUE FANS FOR
On Tuesday night, the Cats dropped their second home game of the season, this time to Tennessee by 2 points, 61-59. The Cats held a lead late in the game, but a pair of turnovers in the last three possessions of the game allowed Tennessee to move back into the lead and secure their second win of the season over the Cats. This is the first time since 2006 for the Volunteers to win a game in Rupp over the Cats, and the first time since 1999 that the Volunteers swept a two game season series over a Kentucky team.
The loss Tuesday was the second time this season that the Cats have dropped back to back games. No Coach Calipari UK team has lost three in a row, and since Adoph Rupp arrived in Lexington prior to the 1930 season 89 years ago, only 14 UK teams have lost 3 or more in a row. This team is treading on dangerous ground and will be walking on very thin ice when it takes on the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday night in Reed Arena at College Station.
The Cats hold an all-time 9-3 record over the Aggies. The Cats are 2-1 (all games in Lexington) in games played prior to Texas A&M joining the SEC for the 2013 season, and 7-2 over the Aggies since this matchup because an annual event in 2013. In the most recent 5 ½ seasons of regular competition, these teams have played four time in College Station, four times in Lexington, and once in Nashville in the 2016 SEC Tournament. The SEC Tournament game, and three of the four games in College Station required five overtime periods to determine a winner. In addition, the most recent game between these teams, about a month ago in Lexington, required an official to swallow his whistle with under 4 seconds remaining to allow the Cats to hang on and escape in Rupp with a fragile 1 point win, 74-73.
Texas A&M started the season like gang busters, beating #9 West Virginia by 23 points on a neutral court. The Aggies won their first 7, beating Oklahoma State by 17, Penn State by 11, and USC by 16 in the process. Then the Aggies began to fall on hard times with injuries and disciplinary issues that made key players unavailable. Their trend took a precipitous decline as a result and dispite an 11-1 non-conference record (only loss at #21 Arizona by 3 points on December 5, 2017, Texas A&M opened SEC play with five straight defeats, including their 1 point loss at Rupp. However, in recent weeks, the Aggies have been getting their players back, and have reversed their declining trend recently. After their 0-5 SEC start, the Aggies have won 5 of their last 6 SEC games including a road win on Wednesday night at Auburn, the SEC pace setters at the moment.
For all the talk about UK's "great upside" which is rooted primarily in the wishful thinking, or as so many fans have been saying since Wednesday, Hope, it is Texas A&M that has the large upside as it prepares to make it stretch run toward March.
Since the Cats and Aggies met at Rupp on January 9, each team has played 8 games. Texas A&M has won 6 times, losing at Tennessee by 13 four days after losing in Rupp, and losing at Kansas by 11. The Cats have won 4 and lost 4 times since hanging on to beat Texas A&M by 1 at Rupp. While the Aggies give every indication that they have recovered from their early season personnel losses and are trending upward, Kentucky appears to be struggling to find its heart and soul. Following the West Virginia game, it still seemed possible that this team would actually turn the corner necessary for a strong finish, but this team's play in the three games since West Virginia shout a different message. Now the Cats need a road win at Texas A&M to avoid the dubious achievement of being only the 15 th UK team of the last 89 years to lose 3 in a row in the same season.
Texas A&M's 16-8, 5-6 record has produced an ANE of 0.200 ppp (#22) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.100 ppp (#6). The Cats' 17-7, 6-5 record has produced an ANE of 0.177 ppp (#33) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.094 ppp (#10). The ANE analysis gives the edge to Texas A&M by 6 points, 75-69, in a game played at a pace of 74 possessions. Pomeroy has the Texas A&M favored by 4, 71-67 with a pace of 68 possessions. Vegas opened today with Texas A&M a 4 1/2 point favorite.
Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:
You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link:
Coach Calipari will start Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nick Richards, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, and Hamidou Diallo. Wenyen Gabriel, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Quade Green represent the entire experienced bench tonight because Sacha Killeya-Jones is unavailable.
The Kentucky controls the opening tip and Nick Richards walks. After a Texas A&M missed 3 pointer, the Cats get on the board with a 2-0 lead. However, Texas A&M moves into the lead with a 3 pointer, which Kevin Knox counters with a 3 pointer at the UK end. After Texas A&M ties the game at 5-5, Kevin Knox makes a 3 point play. The Cats are nursing a 1 point lead, 8-7, at the under 16 media timeout with 14:46 left in the first half. In the shorter second segment, the Cats fail to score on 3 shots and 2 turnovers while Texas A&M scores 5 points on 2-8 shooting, no turnovers, and 3 offensive rebounds. At the under 12 media timeout, the Aggies lead 12-8 and have the ball. The first 8+ minutes of the game have been at a pace in the low 60s.
In the third segment, the Cats trim the lead to 2 points with a second chance basket, and after Texas A&M moves on top 14-10, the Cats go on a 8-0 run to the under 8 media timeout with 7:32 remaining, and the Aggies in possession. After the timeout, Texas A&M makes a pair of free throws, gets a put back dunk following another Kentucky turnover, and a layup following a very poor 3 point attempt by Quade Green to move back on top 20-18. Coach Calipari takes a timeout with 6:32 remaining. After the timeout, the Cats score the next 4 points to go up by 2 points, but Texas A&M closes out the segment with a second chance basket and will have one free throw after the timeout to complete a 3 point play and possibly move back on top with 3:39 remaining in the first half.
Texas A&M missed the free throw, but Jarred Vanderbilt walked after getting the rebound and Texas A&M scored on the next possession to move up by 2. After Texas A&M extended their lead to 4, 26-22, the Cats scored the next 8 points to lead 30-26 with 7 seconds left in the half. Texas A&M took a timeout with 7 seconds left. The Aggies do not score on their final possession, so the Cats lead by 4 at the half.
The largest lead of the first half was 4 points by each team. There were 5 ties and 8 lead changes.
The Cats scored 30 points on 34 possessions, 0.824 points per possession, and TEXAS A&M managed their 26 points on 33 possessions, 0.788 ppp. The Cats made 36.4% (12-33) of their first half shots, including 3-7 from outside the arc. TEXAS A&M managed to make 30.6% (11-36) of their first half shots, including 2-14 from outside the arc.
The Cats committed 6 turnovers in the first half while TEXAS A&M committed 3 turnovers.
The Cats made 3-6 from the line (50.0%) and TEXAS A&M made 2-6 from the line (33.3%).
On the Boards, the Cats won the rebounding battle 19-14, but Texas A&M won the battle on the offensive glass 9-8 and tame won the second chance points 8-7. The Cats secured 36.4% of their misses and allowed TEXAS A&M to grab 32.1% of their misses as second chance opportunities.
Texas A&M opens the second half with a straight line drive to the basket on Quade Green to cut the lead to 2, and the Cats commit their 7 th turnover of the game on its first possession. The Aggies get a second chance basket to tie the score at 30-30. Knox responds with a jump shot. However, Texas A&M scores the next 4 points to move on top 34-32, and Coach Calipari takes a quick timeout with 18:01 left in the game. After the timeout, the Cats miss their only shot and turnover the ball over two more times, and Texas A&M makes 3 for 3 from long range to go on top by 11 points, 43-32, forcing Coach Calipari to take another timeout with 16:16 remaining in the game. Texas A&M has opened the half on a 17-2 run to change a 4 point UK lead at the half to this 11 point deficit for the Cats, all in just 7 possessions.
In the second segment, following the Cats' second timeout of the half, the Cats slowed, but did not stop the onslaught as Texas A&M extended the lead to 15 points, 49-34, and then 14 points, 52-38 at the under 12 media timeout. In the first 8 minutes of the second half, Texas A&M has made 11-16 shots including all 4 shots from outside the arc to blow this game wide open.
At the under 8 media timeout, Texas A&M is maintaining a 15 point lead, 63-48. During the third segment, the lead ballooned to 21 points, but the Cats chipped 6 points off that lead at the under 8 media timeout. In the protracted 4 th segment, Texas A&M extended the lead to 23 points, and the Cats cut the lead to 14, 79-65 at the under 4 media timeout with 1:52 remaining and the Cats in possession of the ball.
In the final 2 minutes, the Cats cut the 23 point lead into single digits, 79-71 with 1 minute left in the game. Cats lose 85-74.
UK scored its 74 points on 74 possessions (1.000 ppp) for the game, and TEXAS A&M scored its 85 points on 73 possessions (1.164 ppp).
Kentucky won the battle of the boards, with a rebounding edge 43-40, and Kentucky controlled the offensive glass 13-12. Kentucky used its 13 second chance possessions to score 11 second chance points, and TEXAS A&M used its 12 second chance possessions to score 13 second chance points. TEXAS A&M had an offensive efficiency of 0.986 ppp on its 73 first chance possessions and 1.083 ppp for its 12 second chance possessions. UK had 851 ppp on its 74 first chance possessions and 0.846 ppp on its 13 second chance possessions. With respect to the offensive rebounding, UK grabbed 31.7% of its misses as offensive rebounds while TEXAS A&M was able to convert 28.6% of its misses into bonus possessions with offensive rebounds.
UK made 8-17 (47.1%) from the free throw line in this game. TEXAS A&M made 14-23 [60.9%] for the game. Field goal shooting for UK was 30-66 overall [45.5%] and 6-15 from long range [40.0%]. For Texas A&M, their field goal shooting from inside the arc was a strong 22-43 [51.2%] and from long range, TEXAS A&M hit 9-23 [39.1%].
The Cats committed 12 turnovers, one for every 6.2 possessions. The Cats forced 9 TEXAS A&M turnovers, one for every 8.1 possessions.
Next Game On Schedule: Wednesday evening at Auburn at 9:00 pm for the 26 th game of the season and the 13 th SEC game of 2018
Submitted by Richard Cheeks
Submitted by Richard Cheeks