Cats win nailbiter against Texas A&M


Freshman guard Hamidou Diallo celebrates after a dunk during the game against Texas A&M on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the game 74-73. Photo by Hunter Mitchell.

Looking to bounce back from a loss in Knoxville to rival Tennessee, UK basketball was able to right the ship at home against conference opponent Texas A&M, beating the Aggies 74-73.

The Cats were led by short-haired guards Hamidou Diallo and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who combined for 34 points on 19 shot attempts, including 12 from Gilgeous-Alexander in the first half. They contributed on the glass and in the open floor as well, racking up eight rebounds and seven assists.

Forward Kevin Knox also found his rhythm this game, as he went the entire game without missing a field goal. He finished with 15 points on 5-5 shooting, but committed four turnovers.

Gilgeous-Alexander was given the opportunity to start, thanks to a back strain to normal starting point guard Quade Green. Green’s absence also spelled trouble in other places the Cats may have had more ease with.

By halftime, four Cats had multiple fouls, including redshirt freshman Hamidou Diallo and aggressive rebounder Knox. Because they were forced to sit due to those fouls, head coach John Calipari entered his son, Brad, into the rotation near the end of the first half.

In the first half, neither the Aggies nor the Cats could create much separation. Neither team led by more than six points and were comparable in shooting percentage (12-28 for Texas A&M, 11-23 for UK). Six ties and six lead changes in the first period of the game defined the close affair through the first 20 minutes.

After leading by two at the half, the Cats saw themselves on the wrong end of a bad run by the Aggies that had UK down five mere minutes into the half, while electric forward P.J. Washington picked up his third foul. UK then switched to a 2-3 zone defense out of the timeout following the run by Texas A&M, and the Cats went on a 5-0 run, taking two turnovers to retake the game in Rupp Arena.

Diallo also took over the game for the Cats in the second half, scoring 10 straight for the home team as the two schools traded baskets halfway through the second half. He’d finish with 14 points in the second part of the game, helping the Cats stay in it as the defense struggled to stop the Texas A&M offense.

The Cats will travel to Nashville next to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13.