Blowing a nine-point halftime lead, letting a team creep back and force overtime, turning the ball over 18 times. It likely wasn’t exactly what Kentucky coach John Calipari wanted from his team Saturday against Texas A&M, but the Wildcats fought to stay in control and closed the door in the extra period, winning, 72-68, at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.
Freshman Nerlens Noel, so important down the stretch in Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss earlier in the week, was key against Saturday evening, tallying a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds. Guard Julius Mays also had 19 points, including 4-of-6 shooting from three-point range.
On the final possession of regulation, Kentucky tried to double-team guard Elston Turner on the perimeter, but he was able to dribble through and hit a pull up from the right elbow that kissed off the front of the rim, popped in the air, and fell through.
Texas A&M never led, though they were able to tie the game three times, including Turner’s jumper to end regulation. That run erased a nine-point Kentucky lead at halftime.
In overtime, Kentucky made a more concerted effort to keep the ball out of Turner’s hands with more double teams. The result was a stagnant A&M offense, until Turner was able to hit a three with 2:07 to play to pull the Aggies within three, 69-66.
Kentucky, though, tightened up on defense on Texas A&M’s last possession to secure the victory. Turner was forced into a long three-pointer to tie the game, which rattled out and Kentucky came down with the rebound.
After an up-and-down non-conference season, Kentucky now moves to 6-2 in the SEC and 15-6 overall. The win likely pulls the Wildcats into a tie for second in the conference with Ole Miss, who was losing by double-digits late in the second half to Florida at the time of publication.