Column: Kentucky cannot overlook Texas A&M as Auburn matchup looms


Kentucky Wildcats guard Kellan Grady (31) smiles on the bench during the UK vs. Tennessee basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 107-79. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Hunter Shelton

On Saturday, Jan. 15, Kentucky basketball found its stride once again.  

A 107-79 rout of rival Tennessee inside Rupp Arena marked the biggest win of the season for the No. 12 Wildcats.  

Big Blue Nation provided a raucous experience at Rupp that created one of the best atmospheres the building had seen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Kentucky lit up the Volunteers from start to finish, shooting 67.9 percent from the floor, including connecting on 11 of 18 3-point attempts.  

Despite Tennessee shooting over 50 percent and making 11 deep balls of its own, the Vols could not withstand the firepower of UK’s potent offense.  

After the win, Kentucky jumped up six spots in the latest AP Top 25 poll, checking in at No. 12, the highest ranking the Cats have seen since Dec. 11. 

Prior to the smashing of the Volunteers, Kentucky earned its first road victory of the season, rolling past Vanderbilt 78-66 in Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville. Despite BBN outnumbering the black and gold at Vandy, UK was able to rid itself of an 0-3 record away from home. 

With SEC play ramping up, Kentucky appears to have turned a corner. Head coach John Calipari has finally slimmed down his rotation, Oscar Tshiebwe and TyTy Washington have continued their dominant performances, while shooter’s Kellan Grady and Davion Mintz have only gotten more efficient from behind the arch.  

With Kentucky’s stock on the rise, a weekend matchup has reared its head, grabbing the attention of the UK faithful.  

On Saturday, Jan. 22, the Wildcats will travel to Auburn, Alabama for a date with the No. 2 Auburn Tigers.  

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl has crafted a roster that rivals his 2018-19 group that made a historic run to the Final Four, which defeated Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky to reach the semifinals.  

A 16-1 record is paced by star forward Jabari Smith, who is expected to be a lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. A plethora of transfers and returnees alongside Smith have built an 11-man group that averages 80 points a game, terrorizing any and all competition.  

Auburn Arena, also known as “The Jungle,” will rival the loudest environment that the Wildcats will play in all season.  

While it can be easy to look forward to one of the more hyped SEC matchups in the last couple of seasons, Kentucky cannot look past its opponent on Wednesday night.  

Kentucky heads to College Station, Texas for a date with the Texas A&M Aggies, one of the hottest teams in the nation.  

The Aggies carry a 15-2 record, including a perfect 4-0 record in SEC play.  

Head coach Buzz Williams, who is in his third year at the helm at A&M, has the Aggies on pace for their best record since the 2015-16 season, which saw A&M win 28 games.  

While the Aggies’ strength of schedule has been lackluster, ranking 113th in the country, A&M has taken care of business all but twice, midway through January.  

Averaging 76 points a game, the Aggies are led by senior guard Quenton Jackson, who is averaging 12.9 points per contest. Despite leading the team in scoring, Jackson comes off of the bench for the Aggies. Texas A&M is a guard-heavy team, as seven of the top-eight scorers for the Aggies reside in the backcourt.  

Forward Henry Coleman III does most of the dirty work down low, averaging 11 points and 5.3 rebounds a night.  

A&M will welcome UK to Reed Arena amidst an eight-game winning streak, currently standing in second place in the SEC, behind just Auburn.  

Kentucky enters Wednesday night’s matchup as a seven-point favorite. Despite the 15-2 record, the Aggies have flown under the radar. An opportunity to make a statement against the blue blood of the south will not be taken lightly by Buzz Williams and his squad.  

UK leads the all-time series against A&M, winning 11 of 15 matchups. The last two times that the Aggies were able to vanquish the Cats, came inside Reed Arena in College Station.  

The 12th man will be rocking in the Lone Star State on Wednesday night. If Kentucky wants its weekend tilt with the highly ranked Tigers to hold its value, the Cats must take care of business against the Aggies with authority.