Y’all aren’t going to believe this… but we came out and blew the gates off of Kentucky in the opening four minutes. We were playing really well on both ends, Kentucky couldn’t buy an early basket, and we sprinted ahead to a 10-0 lead.
And we should have been ahead by more.
We blew a couple of early chances during that run, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that we would come to rue those mistakes. Kentucky rarely comes out cold at Rupp Arena, and we didn’t take full advantage.
The remainder of the half was predictable. The Wildcats started hitting, their defensive intensity ramped up, and the crowd (catatonic to that point) got into the game and started to affect the proceedings a little bit. The end result was a 46-24 “run” that calmed the locals nerves.
Halftime Score: Kentucky 46, Texas A&M 34
I’m going to be completely honest with y’all: I thought Kentucky was going to put this game to bed in the opening five minutes of the second half. Instead, we dug our heels in and made it exceedingly clear that this game was not going to be easy.
I can’t quite describe the methods of basketball we used to stay in this game. They weren’t pretty, but they were effective. And even though we rarely seemed to run a clean set, stuff just seemed to… work.
I know I’m not making sense. Let’s move on.
Down The Stretch
We kept this game close for the opening 35 minutes. We really did. But when the clock dipped under the 5:00 mark, Kentucky shifted into fourth gear. They (finally) started playing disciplined defense, and they (finally) made a concerted effort to get the ball inside.
And even then, the Kentucky fans weren’t able to truly relax until there were only two minutes remaining.
We came up short. But we did not lack effort.
Final Score: Kentucky 85, Texas A&M 74
We got a pretty friendly draw from the SEC scheduling gods, so it’s really not a stretch to call this our most difficult game of the conference slate. In that context, 35+ minutes of competitive basketball is pretty dang good.
We can learn from this. And if we keep our effort level this high, January might not be full of doom after all. Next up is a trip to Alabama on Saturday.
**** Bonus Update ****
Savion Flagg swung the gambling lines (-13.5) with the greatest heave of all time