Defense, hot shooting from UK lead to dominant win over Aggies

Anthony Crawford

Despite a late tip, No. 6 UK men’s basketball gave the home crowd at Rupp Arena plenty to cheer for against the Texas A&M Aggies as one of the team’s best defensive efforts this season and some hot shooting from deep fueled a 100-58 Cats’ victory.

Coming into the Tuesday’s matchup with the Cats, the Aggies were expected to be one of the toughest tests for UK from the SEC. Both of last season’s games needed overtime, but that wouldn’t be necessary this time around as UK won in dominant fashion.

The game started with the Aggies taking an early lead off an Admon Gilder three, but that would be one of few Texas A&M baskets in the first half as nothing easy came after that.

Texas A&M had enough trouble just settling into their offense — the Aggies committed 15 first half turnovers — let alone actually getting a quality shot off —UK forced two shot-clock violations and held the Aggies to 39 percent shooting from the floor in the first half. UK used those turnovers to do what they do best in getting out early on the break and ended up scoring 21 of its first half point off the Aggies miscues to go into halftime with a 50-27 lead.

One reason the Aggies were expected to be one of the UK’s top challengers in the SEC was because of their size in the frontcourt. Similar to last year, Texas A&M was able to control the glass and hurt UK inside, but the combination of Bam Adebayo and UK’s guards was the difference.

Adebayo has entered a stretch for UK that has seen him become increasingly more comfortable. John Calipari has worked hard to try to have his team funnel its play through the big man inside and Adebayo responded against Texas A&M, chipping in 10 points and three rebounds. But more importantly, Adebayo active on defense, finishing with three blocks and three steals.

It was UK’s guards who helped the team respond with a 15-0 run after Texas A&M’s opening bucket and then continued to dominate the game throughout. In the first half the guards were able to get out and run off the Aggies turnovers, but in the second half it was their shooting that helped UK pull away even further.

Freshman Malik Monk, to no surprise, was the high point again for UK with 26 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field and 5-for-7 from deep. In the first half he was one of the biggest beneficiaries from all the leak outs from the turnovers, getting multiple easy dunks. In the second half he had a brief moment that was reminiscent of his 47-point outing against UNC as he scored 11 straight points for UK including a few deep threes.

Not to be outdone by Monk, sophomore Isaiah Briscoe also had a big game for the Cats. When the guard was not playing a big part in UK’s great defense, he was also riding UK’s hot shooting wave finishing with a career-high three triples in as many shots. Briscoe finished with 13 points to go along with 7 assists.

The lopsided victory for the Cats was unexpected, but it just shows how dangerous UK can be when they are engaged on defense and hitting its shot from deep. UK finished shooting a hot 13-for-25 from three (52 percent) and forced 25 Aggie turnovers (while scoring 35 points off of those).

The Cats will stay home for their next SEC game, facing off against Arkansas Saturday at 8:30 PM.