This game was a shootout from the start. In what is becoming a habit for the Cats, they’re allowing anyone, literally anyone, to score at will for at least the first 20 minutes of the basketball game. The Aggies came into this game following double-digit losses to LSU at home and at Auburn, where they failed to record 60 points in either.
So, naturally, A&M dropped 46 points in the first half to take a one-point lead into the break.
In the second half, a back-and-forth affair ensued. Kentucky looked poised to put the Aggies away, but A&M fought back. Neither team gave an inch as it came down to the wire and even went into overtime.
After an errant pass, the Aggies took the lead with 7.8 seconds remaining, but Reed Sheppard grabbed an offensive rebound, got fouled, and made both free throws with .6 seconds to force overtime.
However, in the end, the Cats couldn’t finish the job on the road.
Next up, the Cats will return to Lexington to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Wednesday night.
ThReeves is a road warrior
Antonio Reeves has been Kentucky’s most consistent scorer, and that was no different today. ThReeves showed up in full force as he knocked down three straight deep balls early in the first half.
As we’ve learned this season, his game has expanded significantly since last year, as he’s become a true three-level scorer. He’s not the Cats’ best player, but he’s one of their most important pieces. Over the last two seasons, he’s really developed into a road warrior.
Reeves became known as a bit of an inconsistent scorer after last season, but he’s been the definition of consistent this season. He may have poor 3-point shooting nights, but he has provided scoring at other levels when the outside shots aren’t falling.
In this game, the outside shots were falling, and it was fun to watch. I don’t know where Kentucky would be if Reeves had left this offseason as was rumored.
Defense leaves a lot to be desired (what’s new?)
This isn’t news, but Kentucky’s defense is BAD. That’s the only way to put it. Texas A&M is a horrific offensive team, and they scored whenever they wanted to against the Cats.
The biggest issue is the inability to stay in front of guys. Kentucky has players who are good at jumping passing lanes, but both on- and off-ball defense is unacceptable. The seven-footers alter some shots, which helps as opposed to the beginning of the season, and Ugonna Onyenso played very well in this one, but we’re seeing now that this is just a personnel problem.
Guys get lost. Rotations are poor. Defensive rebounding is weak. I tend to think it’s partly a lack of effort. A lot of effort is expended on the offensive end and there are a lot of possessions, but it’s not up to Calipari standards. Kentucky has to shore it up, or it’ll be another early March exit.
Wagner is coming alive
DJ Wagner had a slow start to his college career, but he’s settled right in. I mentioned the defensive concerns above, but he’s the Cats’ best on-ball defender.
He’s also come a long way on the offensive end. Over the last nine games, Wagner is shooting 38% from 3, albeit in a small sample. He also couldn’t finish a layup to save his life, and that’s his bread and butter now. Some guys explode on the scene, and others take time.
Wagner didn’t have the best start, but he’s slowly solidified himself as one of the best freshmen in the country.
Texas A&M isn’t a great team. Several teams have struggled this season on the road, but that’s no excuse. It’s a fun style, but until the defense gets better, this team’s ceiling is limited.
Up next, Kentucky is back home Wednesday to host Mississippi State.