Kentucky basketball: Aggies take shootout over Wildcats

The Cats fall in an offensive slugfest at College Station.

Missouri v Kentucky
Missouri v Kentucky / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

Kentucky suffers its first conference loss as it falls on the road to Texas A&M 97-92 in overtime. Throughout the game, Kentucky fans witnessed every iteration of the team. Did the Aggies offensively outperform their season averages? Yes. Does that prove that Texas A&M is better than they have been playing or does it expose Kentucky’s defensive flaws? Let’s get right to it. 

Kentucky realized an unfortunate reality in College Station on Saturday. When your team’s identity is built by playing fast, being offensively explosive, and minimal defensive resistance: some opponents will get hot. Coach Calipari and his team are hoping that this outcome is an exception to the rule. However, this loss should serve as a firm reminder that if it happens once, it can happen again. Take a loss like this in January and Kentucky fans can absorb it and move on. It just cannot happen in March. 

How did Texas A&M win?

The proof is found in the boxscore. It was well-documented that the Aggies were coming into the game struggling offensively, particularly from the perimeter. Their top perimeter players, Wade Taylor IV (SEC Preseason POY) and Tyrece Radford had been shooting under 30% from 3-point land. Radford had only connected on 9 3-pointers all season. As a team, the Aggies were hitting only 6 3-point baskets per game with most of their production coming from inside the arc and the free-throw line. In Saturday’s victory, they overachieved in several offensive categories, especially from the perimeter. Taylor and Radford combined for 9 3-point baskets of the team’s 12 total making 50% more 3-pointers than their average. Kentucky’s pace forces teams to play faster than they are accustomed to which typically will favor Kentucky. However, in this game, despite the Aggies playing their fastest game of the season, their offensive production performed far better than their team identity would indicate. 

How did Kentucky lose?

Insert snide goaltending comment here. Truthfully, Kentucky played almost exactly as their season averages would dictate. Let’s look at 3 areas. First, Kentucky had its worst performance since the Kansas loss in terms of scoring layups. They connected on only 13 layups, which includes only 1 dunk. Those easy baskets are crucial. Secondly, they retrieved their second-highest offensive rebounds on the season with 17 but only scored 20 second-chance points. Several of those offensive rebounds led to layup attempts, too. Lastly, Kentucky gave away too many points at the free-throw line. For a team that shoots 74% from the line, you just cannot miss 8 free throws, especially from your guards like Sheppard, Reeves, and Wagner. 

Looking ahead

Kentucky plays two, tough home games this week against Mississippi State (12-4; 1-2) and Georgia (12-4; 2-1). Both teams are playing better than their preseason projections and will look to play spoiler in Rupp. Can Kentucky find ways to improve their defensive scheme? Or will they continue to try to outscore teams in a race to the buzzer? The SEC never takes games off. See you Wednesday!