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Texas A&M Aggies 83, Kentucky Wildcats 71: Postmortem

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Texas A&M shot the ball at a torrid pace and defeated Kentucky at Rupp Arena in their first try since 1978.

Elston Turner went nuts today, and Kentucky went down at home.
Elston Turner went nuts today, and Kentucky went down at home.

Congratulations to the Texas A&M Aggies on an outstanding victory. They played the game exactly like they wanted to, and with the help of one of the hottest shooting performances we have ever seen in Rupp Arena, defeated Kentucky in a game that was much closer than the score. The ugly bulge came at the end due to what amounted to a Kentucky surrender, something that UK patrons are not used to seeing under John Calipari, and which actually drew the first boos in the John Calipari era at Rupp.

I know you'd call me on it if I blew a bunch of sunshine up your collective Big Blue backsides, so I'll refrain from doing that. This was, in no uncertain terms, a devastating loss that Kentucky could not afford to absorb. This team is officially on the bubble now for the NCAA tournament, and the way they are playing right now, I'm not sure that they won't lose to Tennessee on Tuesday. The team absolutely gave up after a backbreaking 3 by Fabyon Harris from the right corner, and that's not acceptable for a Kentucky basketball team.

Kentucky didn't shoot horribly, but they didn't shoot particularly well, and they absolutely could not stop Elston Turner, who missed only 5 of 19 shots, many of them reasonably well-defended and under tremendous pressure. That sometimes happens, but from a coaching and team standpoint, you have to find a way to respond. Kentucky did take a four point lead with about 5 minutes to play, but they couldn't keep it for longer than a few seconds. A&M had all the answers, and Kentucky finds itself asking all the questions.

Individual observations

  • Nerlens Noel played with great passion and effort. He did all we could reasonably ask of any Wildcat player in any game. Noel threatened a triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 7 blocks.
  • Archie Goodwin had what I consider to be a terrible offensive game and a good defensive game. He managed 17 points, but it was on 6-16 shooting. He had four turnovers and a couple of rebounds as well. Goodwin did everything he could do against Turner, but sometimes, even your very best is just not enough.
  • Ryan Harrow did not have a good game, but a lot of badness it came after the game was mostly over. He scored 14 points on 5-13 shooting, but had 5 turnovers (although two were meaningless) and looked anything but confident when crunch time came.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein was hampered by fouls and was never really a factor in the game. He had 6 points, but only 3 rebounds.
  • Julius Mays continues to struggle shooting the ball, but he made a big three that gave Kentucky hope and put the Wildcats up four. 2-7 shooting the ball for 7 points. No rebounds, but four dimes. In his defense, I liked the shots he took, and overall, I though he played pretty well. His shooting form will return, hopefully soon.
  • I think Kyle Wiltjer was on strike this game. His energy was low, he didn't score a point, and took only 2 shots in 19 minutes. His defense wasn't as horrible as against Vandy, but with only 2 rebounds to go with a doughnut, he was just a body on the floor at best.
  • Alex Poythress actually had a decent game. We are going to have to get over the idea that this guy is a stud, he just isn't. He is pretty much a typical freshman, and I question his high rating coming out of high school He had a good line, 14 points on 4-8 shooting, made all 3 free throws, had 6 rebounds and 3 offensive. Honestly, that's about as good as he gets. Defensively, he was just okay, but maybe a little better than he has been.

Team observations:

  • I guess this is just what we are going to get rebounding-wise. It bodes ill for the future, because we are losing the rebounding battle to teams that are smaller as well as to ones that are just as big. It's frustrating, and apparently, we're just stuck with it.
  • Kentucky just doesn't get it on offense. I can't really expound upon it because it's hard to put my finger on. One play, we do okay, and then the next possession we look like a high-school team. I know why, though -- this team has no idea what it wants to be. They want to win, but they don't know how, and they don't have a go-to play or player. Everybody is a player, but none of them know what the objective of each play is, and they have no idea when or who should take the shot.
  • Goodwin is getting up far too many shots for this team in bad situations. Either we need to make him a go-to player or ask him to fill a supporting role. I think he's confused about his role as well.
  • Calipari's magic tricks don't seem to be working on this team, at least yet. Maybe it will later.
  • 77% from the line. in a loss. I can't wait to do it in a victory.
  • I'm not enamored with Calipari's coaching the last two games. We should have pressed this team and forced the tempo, some double-teams to force Turner to give up the ball make sense to me. This isn't rocket science, and I've seen enough basketball to know this wasn't Calipari's best coaching job.

We are going to have to face reality and get off the happy train, this team really isn't getting much better. In fact, they have hit a plateau, and have none of the identity that last year's team did at this point. Even 2011 didn't lose a game at home, and they had established an identity by this point as well.

This year's Kentucky team has no idea who it is, and has decided, apparently, that they are going to give only as much effort as they want to. There's really not much Calipari can do about it this year. Unless they come off that position, they are going to lose more home games, and could possibly (but I still don't consider it particularly likely) miss the NCAA tournament altogether.

All that should not take anything away from the performance of Texas A&M. Let's be honest, they were just the best team in the building today, and they played like it. Turner was amazing, UK had no answer, and that's just that.

Next up: The Tennessee Volunteers. If I were a Vol fan right now, I'd be licking my chops.