This might be the best I’ve ever felt after a loss.
We took Kentucky’s best shot early, we hung around during a plodding middle portion of the game while forcing them away from what they like to do, and we had the game relatively close coming down the stretch.
We didn’t pull it off, but we learned a great deal about a team that just doesn’t know when to quit.
This was honestly the most bizarre half of basketball all season. The opening four minutes... they were beautiful. Both teams were absolutely on fire, and the Wildcats 19-14 lead after five minutes suggested that both squads might clear triple digits.
They didn’t clear triple digits.
Kentucky started turning the ball over to an almost comical extent, but their defense forced the Aggies into a series of bad shots... with predictable results. When the dust settled, we had a truly unbelievable stat on our hands — both teams scored more in their opening five minutes than they did in the following fifteen.
Halftime Score: Kentucky 36, Texas A&M 27
I think we’ll look back at the second half as a missed opportunity.
Our defensive execution was far better in the second half, and we held Kentucky to 21 points over the first 18 minutes of the period. But we couldn’t get going offensively. We’d have these periods where we’d hold Kentucky to 1-5 shooting, yet come up empty during our possessions during the same stretch.
Shoot, there was one three minute stretch where NO points were scored. By anyone.
We did close the gap to seven with four minutes remaining, but Immanuel Quickley buried us on the two biggest possessions of the game to put this sucker to bed. He had 30 on the evening, and it’s his third straight game with 20 points or more.
We showed well, and we played hard... but Kentucky (and Quickley) was just too much.
Final Score: Kentucky 69, Texas A&M 60
- We were 10-of-22 from beyond the arc, making us an absolutely mind-boggling 30-63 (48%) over our last three games. These are (not surprisingly) our best three shooting efforts of the season.
- Josh Nebo was dependable yet again, scoring a dozen or more points (14) for his fifth consecutive game.
- We don’t often highlight opposition performances, but Immanuel Quckley was too good to ignore. The reigning SEC Player of the Week hit eight threes and was the best player on the floor by a wide margin.
- Three weeks ago, I questioned whether Savion Flagg should lose his spot in the starting lineup... and I feel foolish. He had 17 points on 5-6 from beyond the arc, which was his fifth consecutive game in double figures. He’s mostly back to his old form, which is critical given our upcoming opponents.
- Chuck Mitchell keeps getting buckets, only now he’s taking fewer shots. He was efficient again, leading us with 18 points on 6-11 shooting. He’s 19-31 (61%) over the last ten days, averaging almost 19 PPG over that stretch.
- On the somber side... Aggie Hoops has now lost nine straight games to ranked opponents. Our last win was in the Round of 32 in the NCAA’s against #10 North Carolina.
It’s rare for one game to reveal so much about a program.
First, we learned how far we’d come. The announcers did a nice job comparing this effort against our early results, which is an important part of yesterday’s story. Kentucky would have won by 40 had this game been played in November..
Second, we kept it close in front of a larger home crowd. The turnout hasn’t been great this season, but recent results (and a good opponent that travels well... and maybe breakaway) granted us a larger turnout. And even though we lost, that crowd got to see a good product. A blowout would have been disastrous, so simple things like “keeping it close when new people are in the building” really matter around here.
Finally (and unfortunately), this game showed us what the next step looks like. This team fought their asses off for the better part of two months, but there’s still a layer or two that we haven’t touched. The Wildcats weren’t at their best, which is an opportunity you don’t get often, and we didn’t have the horses to take advantage.
We saw our progress, but we saw it mapped explicitly against the upper tier of the SEC, and we saw it all in one evening. It’s a gap I expect we’ll close soon.
Next up is a tough weekend road trip to Baton Rouge