Fabyon Harris made way for Shawn Smith. At tip-off this seemed like a move designed to keep as much height + athleticism on the floor as possible... but it turns out Fabyon was benched for the entire game. For more on this topic check out DerekAggie06's instant reaction article from last night.
Full Starting Lineup: Caruso/Smith/Jones/Green/Roberson
Well, let's be real. Here's where it all fell apart.
I kid, I kid.... we showed a lot of heart in the first half. Every single ingredient was there for Kentucky to absolutely blow the doors off early and we kept the game respectable. Consider the following:
- Jordan Green picks up his 2nd foul with 15:26 remaining
- Jamal Jones picks up his 2nd foul with 14:56 remaining
- Jamal Jones picks up his 3rd foul with 3:47 remaining
- Extended playing time for Blake McDonald, Tavario Miller, and Dylan Johns
- Kentucky enters the bonus with 12:50 remaining in the first half
- 12 total A&M fouls in the first half (fun fact: we had 27 in the game against Mississippi State)
Quite simply, our first half defense and rebounding kept things close. Caruso and Shawn Smith (36 minutes; 8 points / 4 rebounds / 2 steals) did very well on top of our 2-3 zone, and our bigs kept the UK 2nd chance points to a minimum. Kentucky actually ended up attempting more threes (15) than regular FG's (12) in the first half.
I couldn't believe it when I checked the scoreboard, but we were only down seven. Halftime score: Texas A&M 27, Kentucky 34
Our best passage of play came early in the second half, where a nice Kourtney Roberson (20 minutes; 6 points / 3 rebounds / 2-5 FG) post move combined with a strong Caruso take and a nice high/low pass from Roberson to Smith... but we didn't make up any ground. A strong defensive possession was nullified by a no-call on a clear over-the-back by Julius Randle (29 minutes; 13 points / 11 rebounds / 2 blocks), and Jordan Green (16 minutes; 4 points / 2 assists) soon picked up his fourth foul 30 feet from the basket.
At this point I should note that Kentucky was in the bonus with 14:33 remaining. Because apparently that is now a thing that we do.
Coming out of the first media timeout, Jamal Jones (21 minutes; 8 points / 3-12 FG) found himself isolated on Kentucky's Alex Poythress (25 minutes; 16 points / 5 rebounds / 2 blocks / 1 poster). Jones spins down the lane and appears to have a layup... and Poythress blocks it from absolutely nowhere. Just an incredible athletic basketball play. Jones' move was the type of play that works against any other roster, and perfectly illustrated UK's height/athleticism advantage.
Fitzgerald (24 minutes; 12 points / 5-12 FG) soon hit a three to knock the lead back to eight, but an immediate Poythress poster moved the lead back to double digits and it stayed there for the remainder of the game.
We kept the defecit right at 10-11 for the middle portion of the half, but Kentucky blew it open with about seven minutes remaining. Some poor free throw shooting on our end didn't help, but the size advantage was just too much to deal with (UK ended the game with a 16 rebound advantage) and a 10-2 Wildcat run pushed the defecit to 18.
At this point both sides played out the string. Final score: Texas A&M 51, Kentucky 68
Game MVP: This could go to 3-4 different Kentucky players, but Poythress made the biggest plays to help push the game out of reach
Under the right circumstances, I firmly believe this team can hang with anyone. We have an 8-man rotation that works and our defensive intensity has us ranked 2nd in the SEC in most team categories.
But we don't have offensive depth.
Which means any night that requires 32 minutes (12 - McDonald; 11 - Johns; 9 - Miller) from guys outside the top 8 is going to lead to some seriously challenging offensive possessions. Add that to an opponent with UK's length/athleticism, and there was really only one way this was going to play out.
Huge game coming up. Texas A&M plays Vanderbilt at Reed Arena this Saturday at noon CST. This game is the difference between a respectable 4-2 start in conference play and a three-game free fall heading into to two road games. Things went pretty well the last time we had a must win against Vanderbilt at home, so hopefully we can run it back.
Thoughts on the upcoming schedule? The Harris game suspension? Hit the comments below.