Kentucky leads, then falls way behind, then rallies before losing at A&M

Kentucky leads, then falls way behind, then rallies before losing at A&M
Tipsheet: Surging Bulldogs, Aggies intensify SEC basketball race
nplayTexas A&M hands Kentucky third straight loss (0:42)With former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel courtside, the Aggies make easy work of the No. 24 Wildcats in an 85-74 win. (0:42)

He was anything but melodramatic after Kentucky’s latest setback, an 85-74 road loss at Texas A&M on Saturday that certainly will send the No. 24 Wildcats tumbling out of the top 25 for the second time in as many months. He spoke with the calm of seasoned veteran coach — which, of course, he is, currently in his 26th season and ninth in charge of the Wildcats.

“I’m not cracking,” Calipari said moments after the Wildcats lost a third straight game for the first time in his tenure. “This doesn’t faze me.”

His team, however, is a different story. And Kentucky (17-8, 6-6 SEC) is running out of time to figure things out.

Tipsheet: Surging Bulldogs, Aggies intensify SEC basketball race
Tipsheet: Surging Bulldogs, Aggies intensify SEC basketball race

John Calipari ‘not cracking’ after Kentucky crushed by Texas A&#x0026M in third straight loss

While Calipari’s claims might make for good sound bites, the play on the floor doesn’t match. The Wildcats made mistakes and showed flaws that have reared their heads time and again this season.

Starks has 17 points, Texas A&#x0026M beats No. 24 Kentucky 85-74
Starks has 17 points, Texas A&#x0026M beats No. 24 Kentucky 85-74

After Texas A&#x0026M embarrassment, is No. 24 Kentucky in danger of missing the NCAA tournament?

The youngest team in college basketball is showing it. The lack of a veteran presence is clear. When the Wildcats struggled to start the second half, watching Texas A&M (17-8, 6-6) turn a 30-26 Kentucky lead into a 43-32 Aggies advantage, there was nobody — except Calipari — to be vocal.

“This league is going to do well, collectively, in the NCAA Tournament,” Howland said. “I have no doubts about that. Our league is going to be really good. This thing is a gauntlet. There is nothing else, top to bottom, one through 14, like this in the country. It’s brutal. You better bring your best every day or you have no shot.”

“Why is it happening?” Calipari lamented. “You’re so into how you’re playing, you can’t give that energy to the team. That’s what young guys do. I can’t seem to get ’em over that hump. They’re more concerned with how they’re playing, and then when they’re concerned, they look really bad individually.”

Resurgent A&#x0026M whips No. 24 Kentucky

“I’m not cracking,” John Calipari said after Kentucky lost a third straight game for the first time in his tenure. “This doesn’t faze me.” C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY SportsAll that said, Texas A&M’s effort was impressive on Saturday. While Kentucky had some self-inflicted wounds, much of the credit goes to the Aggies for simply outworking the Wildcats. The Aggies got to the rim at will in the second half. They repeatedly beat the Wildcats down the floor in transition. (A&M had a 13-4 advantage in fast-break points in the second half.) The Aggies had seven dunks, five of which came from sophomore forward Robert Williams (12 points, 11 rebounds), who was brilliant.

Tennessee (18-5, 8-3) is the hottest team in the league with six consecutive victories and nine in their last 10 games, including two over Kentucky (17-7, 6-5). The Vols have fortified their case for a nice NCAA seed while the Wildcats have much work to do on that front.

Once the Aggies figured out that it was better to use their stout frontcourt of Williams, Tyler Davis and Tonny Trocha-Morelos to pound the Wildcats inside rather than live on the perimeter (the Aggies shot 2-for-14 from deep in the first half), Kentucky had no answer. Texas A&M’s big man trio combined for 33 points, 22 rebounds and six blocks.

Arkansas (18-8, 5-6) has stayed in the NCAA Tournament discussion with many close calls this season, edging Tennessee (95-93), Missouri (65-63), Ole Miss (97-93) and Oklahoma State (66-65) at home and Mississippi State (78-75) and Georgia (80-77) on the road. Whew!

“Coach [Billy Kennedy] was stressing, ‘Attack, attack,'” Williams said.

The Aggies did, and as a result scored a whopping 59 points in the game’s final 20 minutes.

The Aggies appear to be hitting their stride. Once ranked as high as fifth in the Associated Press poll, they stumbled out of the gate, losing their first five SEC games. With injuries and suspensions keeping them from consistently playing at full strength, January proved a trying month.

But the Aggies have now won four straight, including two victories over ranked squads this week — the other coming at No. 8 Auburn on Wednesday. With this team as close to full strength as it has been since conference play started (guards Admon Gilder and Duane Wilson are still battling knee injuries, but Gilder is getting closer to full strength), Texas A&M is playing like the team that we saw in nonconference play.

“Our team is so different today than it was back then,” Kennedy said. “We’re playing different guys, roles are a little bit different. It’s more that we’re playing well. Getting Admon back has been a big help.”

Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland shouts to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Texas Tech vs. Kansas State basketball live updates

Texas A&M and Kentucky have identical records but are going in different directions. The Aggies are surging, solidifying their place in the tournament field. The Wildcats are sliding, making some wonder how deep into March they’ll play.

Missouri coach Barry Odom missed an opportunity to score a big recruiting class when elite St. Louis-area prospects went other directions. So the Tigers fell further behind their SEC East rivals.

UK basketball falls at Texas A&#x0026M, loses third straight for first time in John Calipari era

Kentucky, which trailed by as much as 23 points, showed some late fight to cut the deficit back to single digits, something it has shown many times before. But the Wildcats have proved they aren’t yet good enough to flip a switch and win consistently after digging themselves a hole. There is no real leadership and only one player consistently playing well at this moment: guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who led all scorers on Saturday with 19 points on 9 of 12 shooting and had eight assists.

Georgia, LSU, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have fallen by the wayside. It appears their only path to the NCAA Tournament involves winning the SEC Tournament at Scottrade Center.

Kennedy also said “you can tell” this is the youngest Kentucky team Calipari has had.

“They make mistakes that freshmen make, in the heat of the game and on the road,” Kennedy said. “John has done a terrific job with his team. … They played like a young team tonight.”

Calipari swears there’s still time to right the ship, but “it’s getting old.” Whether the Wildcats will get back on track — with no seasoned veteran to help guide them through it — remains to be seen. Things don’t get easier, as Kentucky heads to Auburn on Wednesday.

“When we get this, we’ll bust through,” Calipari said. “But it’s getting old right now, and each week that goes by it gets harder and harder to get this thing to where you want it to go. And so, at some point, somebody’s got to lead and step up and say, ‘Hey, enough is enough.’ Right now, I’m not sure we have that guy.”

Kentucky Basketball slammed by Texas A&#x0026M: 5 things to knox, box score and postgame banter

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Aggie Basketball Game #25:No. 24 Kentucky (16-8; 6-5 SEC) at Texas A&M (16-8; 5-6 SEC) Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018 • 7:15 p.m. (CT)Reed Arena (12,989) • College Station, Texas

TELEVISION: ESPN2 (For more info – Dave Flemming, Play-by-Play Dan Dakich, Commentary Kris Budden, Reporter

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Cats lose three straight for first time under Calipari as they fall to Texas A&#x0026M

RADIO: WTAW 1620 AM (Bryan-College Station) Dave South, Play-by-Play Mike Caruso, Commentary

Between now and then expect more mayhem. Nothing will come easy for any of these teams.


Tennessee star Admiral Schofield, after the Vols completed their sweep of Kentucky.

Texas A&M will be in search of a fourth-consecutive win Saturday when the Aggies host No. 24 Kentucky inside Reed Arena at 7:15 p.m. Fans are encouraged to Rock Reed by wearing white with a free t-shirt being given away to those in attendance, courtesy of Opportune.

Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
John Calipari 'not cracking' after Kentucky crushed by Texas A&#x0026M in third straight loss
John Calipari ‘not cracking’ after Kentucky crushed by Texas A&#x0026M in third straight loss

The contest will be televised to a national audience on ESPN2 with Dave Flemming calling the play-by-play action, Dan Dakich providing commentary and Kris Budden reporting. Additionally, radio coverage will be available on the Aggie Sports Network, which can be heard locally in the Bryan/College Station area on WTAW (1620 AM).

Texas vs. TCU basketball live updates

The Aggies’ two-headed monster on the interior – Tyler Davis and Robert Williams – was honored this week as the players were selected to the slimmed down watch list (10 players) for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award (Davis) and Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award (Williams).

Davis has been Texas A&M’s most consistent player this season, standing out as the only Aggie to start all 24 games while producing nine double-doubles, the second-most among all SEC players. Williams has stepped up his productively during SEC play and is averaging 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest in his last seven games, while shooting 77.0 percent from the floor.

Scorching 2nd half lifts A&#x0026M to win over Kentucky

On the perimeter Texas A&M has gotten a boost from freshman TJ Starks, who entered the starting lineup for the Kansas game on Jan. 27 and has produced 14.8 points per game while shooting 66.7 percent from 3-point range in four games as a starter. The Dallas native is coming off a career-best 23-point effort in Texas A&M’s road upset of No. 8 Auburn on Wednesday night.

For the Aggies (16-8; 5-6 SEC), the victory over the Tigers was their second over a top-10 opponent this season and gave program its first campaign with multiple victories over top-10 foes on their home floor.

Kentucky, meanwhile, comes to College Station sporting a 17-7 overall mark with a 6-5 record in SEC. The Wildcats are looking to bounce back after suffering back-to-back losses to Missouri and Tennessee in their most recent outing.

The series between the Wildcats and Aggies has been a tightly-contest affair since Texas A&M joined the SEC for the 2012-13 campaign. In nine meetings as SEC opponents, have been four overtime contests, including three at Reed Arena, and six total contests decided by eight points or less.

UK defeated the Aggies 74-73 at Rupp Arena in Lexington earlier this season on Jan. 3.

–SETTING THE SCENE / NOTABLESTexas A&M puts its three-game winning streak on the line Saturday when the Aggies host Kentucky.The clash with the 24th-ranked Wildcats second straight ranked-opponent for the Aggies, who defeated No. 8 Auburn on the road Wednesday … Texas A&M is 3-3 against ranked teams this season.The win over the Tigers gave the Aggies their second victory over a top-10 opponent this season as A&M also carded a 75-59 win over then-No. 10 USC on Nov. 26 in Los Angeles … the two road victories over top-10 opponents are the most during a single season in program history.

Box score from Kentucky’s 85-74 loss at Texas A&#x0026M

SERIES HISTORY VS. KENTUCKY (UK LEADS 9-3)Saturday will be the 13th meeting between the Aggies & Wildcats on the hardwood and the ninth since A&M joined the SEC.Earlier this season on Jan. 9, Texas A&M dropped a 74-73 decision to the Wildcats at UK’s Rupp Arena … the Aggies were lead in scoring by 21 points from Tyler Davis who went 8-of-10 from the field.On Jan. 12, 2013, during its first visit to Rupp Arena as an SEC team, A&M became the first team to hand John Calipari a home conference loss at Kentucky … UK saw its 24-game home SEC win streak snapped in the affair.The two schools first met during the 1941-42 season when the ‘Cats earned a 49-29 victory.A&M’s Billy Kennedy is 2-7 against Kentucky.Kennedy’s head coaching counterpart, UK’s John Calipari, is 8-2 all-time against the Aggies … Before his tenure at UK, his lone contest against Texas A&M came on March 22, 2007, while coaching at Memphis … The Tigers defeated the Aggies 65-64 during the NCAA Tournament’s South Regional semifinal at San Antonio’s Alamodome.

TEXAS A&M VS. RANKED TEAMSA&M is 3-3 vs. ranked teams this season, having carded wins over No. 11 West Virginia (Nov. 10 at Ramstein Air Base Germany), No. 10 USC (Nov. 26 in Los Angeles) and No. 8 Auburn (Feb. 7 in Auburn) against losses vs. No. 21 Kentucky (Jan. 9 in Lexington), No. 24 Tennessee (Jan. 13 in Knoxville) and No. 5 Kansas (Jan. 27 in Lawrence).

MOST TOP-10 ROAD WINS IN SCHOOL HISTORYThis season marks the first time in program history that Texas A&M has defeated multiple top-10 ranked opponents on the road. The Aggies defeated then 10th-ranked USC at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Nov. 26 before downing No. 8 Auburn at Auburn Arena on Feb. 7.

AGGIES RANK AMONG NATION’S BEST REBOUNDING TEAMSTexas A&M enters the Kentucky game ranking third nationally in total rebounds per game (41.83), eighth in defensive rebounds per game (29.21), 27th in offensive rebounds per game (12.63) and ninth in rebound margin (+7.6). A&M has been out-rebounded in just four games this season.

A&M DEFENSE BY THE NUMBERSThrough games played on Feb. 5, Texas A&M stands out as one of the country’s toughest defensive squads, checking in at seventh nationally in field goal percentage defense (38.9). Additionally, A&M is seventh in defensive rebounds per game (29.52) and fifth in blocked shots per game (6.2).

Kentucky a rare underdog at Texas A&#x0026M ranks the Aggies at No. 5 nationally in its adjusted defensive efficiency (91.9).

DAVIS – A&M’S STEADY, RELENTLESS COMPETITORThe Aggies have seen their share of ups & downs already this season, but one thing that has not changed throughout it all has been the steady play and competitiveness of Tyler Davis. Here’s a look at Tyler’s season by the numbers.

Only Aggie to start all 24 games this seasonNine double-doubles (Tied with Georiga’s Yante Maten for 1st in the SEC)15 career double-doubles (T-2nd in the SEC)In all games, ranks 16th in the SEC in scoring (14.4 ppg) & 2nd in rebounding (8.9 rpg)In all games, leads the SEC & ranks 37th nationally in field goal percentage (57.0 percent)In SEC games only, ranks 14th in the SEC in scoring (14.5 ppg) & first in rebounding (9.4 rpg) UP NEXT AFTER THE KENTUCKY GAMEThe Aggies being a road-heavy stretch that will see Texas A&M play four of its next five contests away from College Station, beginning Tuesday at Missouri … Tipoff between the Aggies and Tigers is slated for 6 p.m. from Mizzou Arena with television coverage on ESPNU.

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