Kentucky (14-6) at Texas A&M (13-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reed Arena (12,989) -- College Station, Texas. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Kentucky 10-2, Texas A&M 9-3. Away Record: Kentucky 3-3, Texas A&M 3-2. Neutral Record: Kentucky 1-1, Texas A&M 1-2. Conference Record: Kentucky 5-2, Texas A&M 3-4. Series Record: Series is tied, 2-2.
GAME NOTES: With both teams fresh off victories, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Texas A&M Aggies are set for an SEC showdown at Reed Arena in College Station on Saturday evening.
Kentucky's season has been a disappointment, as it started as the No. 3 team in the nation only to fall all the way out of the Top-25. Things have been turning around for the Wildcats of late however, as they've won four of their last five, with Tuesday's 87-74 triumph over nationally-ranked Ole Miss serving as their most impressive of the season. They are now 14-6 overall and 5-2 in the SEC.
After getting its first-ever SEC slate of games off to a 2-0 start, Texas A&M slid into a season-long, four-game losing streak. The Aggies snapped out of that funk on Wednesday night however, claiming a 55-49 overtime decision at Mississippi State to improve to 13-7 overall, and 3-4 in conference.
Texas A&M claimed a surprising 83-71 victory over Kentucky in Lexington back on Jan. 12, bringing the all-time series to an even 2-2.
The Wildcats rode sensational freshman forward Nerlens Noel to their 13-point win over Ole Miss earlier in the week. Although he scored just two points, he set the tone in the paint by blocking a school-record 12 shots. His supporting cast did more than enough to pick up the scoring slack, shooting 50 percent from the field. Kyle Wiltjer came off the bench to knock down 10-of-19 shots, including five 3-pointers, to net 26 points, while Archie Goodwin hit for 24 points on the strength of his 12-of-14 showing at the foul line. Alex Poythress (15 points) and Ryan Harrow (13 points) rounded out a balanced effort. Overall, Kentucky has been outstanding at the offensive end of the court, shooting nearly 49 percent in averaging 76.4 ppg, and it also yields just 62.6 ppg to its opponents. In addition to posting 10.2 ppg and 9.3 rpg, Noel is one of the premiere interior defenders in the nation with an NCAA-best 4.8 bpg and 2.4 spg. Goodwin is the squad's leading scorer with 15.1 ppg, and he hands out 3.3 apg, while Poythress (13.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) shoots a lofty 62.7 percent from the field. Wiltjer (12.0 ppg) and Harrow (10.3 ppg) are also consistent contributors.
Texas A&M trailed Mississippi State by 14 early in the second half only to strike back with a big comeback to take a 47-44 lead with under two minutes to play in regulation. And although the Bulldogs connected on a game-tying 3- pointer in the waning moments to force overtime, the Aggies dominated the extra session to capture the road win. They shot an impressive 47.2 percent from the field for the game, but they nearly cost themselves with 22 turnovers. Fabyon Harris netted 17 points, Elston Turner had 11, J'Mychal Reese scored 10, and Kourtney Roberson tacked on eight points, 12 rebounds and six steals in the win. Elston Turner has the potential to be deadly from 3- point range, as he has made 48-of-123 (.390) from long range on his way to a team-best 15.5 ppg. Harris (10.9 ppg) is an efficient shooter across the board, whether it be from the field (.453), the foul line (.830), or beyond the arc (.435). Ray Turner (9.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg) is the low-post presence for A&M, which ranks a disappointing 11th in the league in scoring (62.8 ppg), but is third in terms of scoring defense (58.8 ppg).
There's very little doubt that Kentucky is the more talented of these two teams, but it has learned this season that talent alone isn't enough to win in the SEC. The Wildcats are slowly but surely looking like the team they were projected to be, and they will ride the momentum of their last win coupled with the revenge factor from the earlier loss to the Aggies to pick up a well- deserved road victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 69, Texas A&M 63
02/02 10:44:34 ET