After a slow first half, we absolutely buried Kentucky with a 26-6 run that turned Reed Arena into a giant, 13,000 person party.
I found myself constantly scanning the crowd, unable to come to terms with just how loud it was. For this basketball fan forged in the fires of the Billy Gillispie era... it felt like home again.
Let’s break it down.
We Took Care of the Ball
We had an odd first half to say the least. We were taking care of the ball, and we were playing good defense... but our shot selection was poor, and on the rare chance that we took a good shot, it wouldn’t fall.
In some games, that combo would sink you. But against this version of Kentucky, you’ll survive. These guys thrive off of turnovers, and we never really let them run. The end result was a first half full of half-court basketball, which both teams seemed ill-equipped to handle.
It was a little frustrating to let a late 8-0 Kentucky run undo a half of our methodical, controlled tempo. But when the halftime whistle blew, we were still in range.
Halftime Score: Kentucky 30, Texas A&M 26
Second Half is Best Half
The first portion of the second half was really, really enjoyable. Particularly because it’s the first time all year we submitted a stretch like this in a big time game at home.
We kept our defensive intensity, we kept taking care of the basketball, and all of our first half shooting woes just... disappeared. We started the second half shooting 11-16 from the field, we hit our first four threes, and we submitted a series of highlight reel dunks en route to a 26-6 run that almost tore the roof off Reed Area.
Don’t believe me? Check it out. (Yes, some of these highlights were already included above. I promise you won’t mind.)
Kentucky never recovered.
We were sloppy down the stretch, and the Wildcats crawled back to single digits, but they never truly seemed in range. These troubles only served to temporarily kill the party atmosphere.
We held on, we dribbled out the clock, and we submitted our 4th straight SEC victory.
Final Score: Texas A&M 85, Kentucky 74
- The Crowd (13,200+). I have to start here. Reed Arena was full to the top corners of the 2nd deck, and it was the loudest I had heard that building in at least two years.
- TJ Starks (17 points, 4-6 3PT). I really like this guy. I know some people were annoyed by his late turnovers, but I don’t want to try to rein him in. Let him go at 100 miles per hour and trust that the good will outweigh the bad.
- Duane Wilson. Wilson is part of why you can ‘let Starks run at full speed.’ He’s the calm, steady, veteran leader you want on the floor late... and it looks like we aren’t going to have him around for a little while. He tried his damnedest to play through his injury problems (and bless him for doing so), but it looks like he’s gonna have to take a break. This means we’re going to have freshman on the court in big minutes moving forward.
- Robert Williams (12 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks). That’s now four straight weeks of All-SEC level play from Robert Williams. If the SEC determines their awards based solely on conference play, he should be in the mix for just about all of them.
- DJ Hogg (16 points, 4-7 3PT, 10 rebounds). We’ve probably said it ten different times this year - this team is at their best when DJ Hogg is shooting well. He certainly shot well last night, and he added ten rebounds as well.
One final quick story - as you might imagine, we had some Kentucky fans sitting near us. Right next to us, in fact. They were nice, but they clearly weren’t having a good time, and they wished us well and headed for the exits with six minutes remaining.
Watching that play out, I realized.... that’s a really foreign feeling for me, lately. I’m used to playing host, being kind, and watching opposing fans have a great time in our building.
It was a big game, at home, and the visiting fans left early because they were disappointed. It put a nice cap on the evening, and hopefully it’s something that can translate across Wellborn.
Next up is a tough road week at Mizzou and Arkansas.