Texas A&M

Dakari Johnson

No. 1 Kentucky holds off Texas A&M in double overtime for another tough SEC win

source: AP

Earlier in the week Kentucky was able to get past Ole Miss with a decent effort in a close 89-86 overtime home win. The Wildcats once again played to the level of its competition on Saturday as No. 1 Kentucky had its true SEC road game at Texas A&M.

This time it nearly came back to bite them as Kentucky avoided an upset with a 70-64 double-overtime win over the Aggies. Freshman Tyler Ulis hit a huge 3-pointer with a little over a minute left that proved to be the game winner and Dakari Johnson hit two clutch free throws with 14.7 seconds left to put the game away.

Aaron Harrison missed a game-winning 3-pointer to end regulation and it led to an overtime that saw Kentucky lose control in the final minutes. With the Wildcats trailing by two on a final possession out of a timeout in overtime, Trey Lyles was fouled and made two free throws to put the game into double overtime. Texas A&M’s Alex Robinson missed a long 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.

In the second overtime, Lyles gave a big lift with Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein fouled out as he helped give Kentucky new life. After Ulis’ shot, the Wildcats calmed down enough to get stops and win.

Struggling to get consistent offense going and only shooting 28 percent (18-for-64) from the field, Kentucky had to rotate different lineups and work on the defensive end. Wildcat freshman guard Devin Booker emerged as the team’s most consistent offensive threat as he went 4-for-6 from 3-point range to finish with a team-high 18 points. Aaron Harrison again hit a key 3-pointer in the closing minutes to score 12 points while grabbing seven rebounds. But the Harrison twins struggled overall and combined to shoot 6-for-30 from the field as Andrew finished with nine points.

Kentucky (15-0, 2-0) didn’t make plays when they needed to and they couldn’t get away from a team with inferior talent. With a deep rotation, they still couldn’t find the right pieces to make the right plays. Texas A&M (9-5, 0-2) had multiple looks in the final minutes and couldn’t knock them down but extended possessions with offensive rebounds in late-game situations. Andrew Harrison made a questionable decision and missed a contested layup with Kentucky up two and running clock late in regulation. That led to Danuel House being fouled on the other end and tying the game, sending it to overtime.

House had a huge game with 25 points and nine rebounds as he shot 8-for-18 from the field and was nearly unstoppable driving to the rim. He just didn’t have enough help to ultimately topple Kentucky.

Texas A&M went on a 12-5 run the last six minutes of the game to stay within striking distance. Kentucky just couldn’t find a go-to scorer down the stretch with the team struggling to hit shots. Booker looked like he would emerge after a 3-point play to start overtime but he was quiet for the rest of the first overtime.

We knew that Kentucky would likely lose eventually because young players have inconsistent games. The problem is, the loss nearly came to a team that hasn’t been considered a major NCAA Tournament threat all year. Texas A&M lost by 21 points at Alabama four days ago and nearly beat Kentucky. The Wildcats won a tough road game here but ultimately need to be more consistent overall to go unscathed in the SEC but they still got it done with young players stepping up.

2015 Battle 4 Atlantis field announced

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During the second half of the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis championship game between No. 2 Wisconsin and Oklahoma, broadcasters Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas revealed the 2015 Battle 4 Atlantis field.

Syracuse, UConn, Michigan, Texas, Gonzaga, Washington, Texas A&M and Charlotte will be the eight teams in yet another star-studded event.

The 2015 Battle 4 Atlantis field provides several opportunities to revive rivalries that became casualties of conference realignment. Syracuse and UConn have not played since the 2012-2013 season and while Syracuse has lined up games against former Big East foes Villanova and St. John’s, nothing has been set between the Orange and Huskies. That is the same situation for Texas and Texas A&M, two schools that have not met on the hardwood since the Aggies left the Big 12 Conference for the SEC.

After a decade-long break, Gonzaga and Washington agreed to renew its rivalry with a four-year, home-and-home series, beginning in 2016, but next year’s event can give us a preview of those matchups.

Once again, it will be hard to find a more competitive field than this one in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

CBT’s Recruiting Roundup: Texas A&M gets a tough guard, St. John’s big weekend, Xavier’s intriguing fit

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Each Monday and Friday, College Basketball Talk’s Scott Phillips goes over some important news and notes in the world of college basketball recruiting. This week, Admon Gilder, Jawun Evans, Elijah Thomas and package deals, a big weekend for St. John’s and Kaiser Gates is an intriguing fit at Xavier.

Admon Gilder, Jawun Evans, Elijah Thomas and package deals

Admon Gilder committing to Texas A&M wasn’t only big for the Aggies’ 2015 class this week, it also threw an interesting wrench in a few talked-about “package deals.” While these deals only materialize part of the time, it is worth noting that both Admon Gilder and Jawun Evans have been mentioned in package deal rumors with five-star big man Elijah Thomas.

So with Gilder going to Billy Kennedy’s team and Evans committing to Oklahoma State, what happens next? Thomas has both Texas A&M and Oklahoma State in his final five, but he also took visits to Illinois, LSU and SMU.

The next step, in which Thomas chooses a school, will show a little bit about how much package deals matter in the grand scheme of things.

Thomas took his official visit to Texas A&M with Gilder, so that is worth noting, but maybe Thomas opts to go his own route and not package up with any of the rumors?

The five-star big man announces on Oct. 21 and we’ll know more of the full story. Until then, let the rumors begin.

Big weekend of visitors with St. John’s

The Red Storm have a big weekend of visitors on-tap.

Head coach Steve Lavin has three huge recruits visiting this weekend as five-star big man Cheick Diallo, five-star guard Isaiah Briscoe and four-star guard Brandon Sampson all visit New York, according to Evan Daniels of Scout.com.

Lavin needs to gain some recruiting momentum going into next season and the head coach didn’t land any major difference-makers in the 2014 recruiting class.

Securing one or more of that aforementioned 2015 group would give Lavin a little more security, especially if the Red Storm have a good year on the court this season.

St. John’s could use some good recruiting news, as they haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since Lavin’s first season in 2010-11.

Xavier lands an intriguing talent in 2015 wing Kaiser Gates

You won’t hear from Xavier much in the 2015 class.

After landing six commitments in the 2014 class, Xavier took plenty of talented players at different positions and had minimal roster flexibility to work with in regards to the next class.

By landing Georgia native and 6-foot-8 wing Kaiser Gates this week, the Musketeers have given themselves a versatile player who can go inside-out or handle the ball a bit in pick and roll spots.

The three-star player doesn’t do one thing great, but Xavier has six players in 2014 to do different tasks already. Gates and his versatility just give Xavier some insurance at multiple spots the next season and he should be able to find a fit there in a number of different ways.

Scheduling improvements won’t occur overnight for the SEC

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Last season was not a particularly good one for the Southeastern Conference on the basketball court. The conference went through one of its worst seasons in recent history, managing to place just three teams in the NCAA tournament field. While the struggles of the league’s premier program (Kentucky) didn’t help matters, the true culprit for the conference was its non-conference scheduling.

While some programs scheduled ambitiously, putting together a slate that was designed to get them ready for conference play and (hopefully) give them a resume worthy of inclusion in the NCAA tournament field, others cobbled together slates that weren’t befitting of a power conference program. And with some of those teams losing games to programs that reside in the lower regions of Division I, the SEC’s computer numbers took a beating.

Auburn lost to Winthrop. Mississippi State lost to Troy and Alabama A&M. South Carolina lost to Elon. Texas A&M lost to Southern. Vanderbilt lost to Marist. Georgia lost to Youngstown State. Alabama lost to Mercer and Tulane.

And there were plenty of bad wins. The SEC played 30 games against teams Ken Pomeroy ranked 300th or lower out of 347, with every team but Kentucky playing at least one. Arkansas and LSU each played four 300-level teams, which is a virtual invitation to miss the NCAA tournament. Pomeroy rated five SEC schools between 302 and 344 in non-conference strength of schedule: Mississippi, Mississippi State, LSU, Auburn and South Carolina.

With that in mind SEC commissioner Mike Slive saw the need to make changes, hiring former NCAA tournament executive Greg Shaheen as a scheduling consultant and making Mark Whitworth the league’s associate commissioner for men’s basketball (a newly-created position). The conference that has won the last seven national titles in football would now focus on improving its basketball product. And given the way in which some programs have scheduled in recent years, these moves were necessary.

But Rome isn’t built in a day, and a list compiled by ESPN’s Jason King on the ten worst non-conference schedules among power conferences shows that there’s still some work to do in the SEC. Three SEC programs made the list (Arkansas, Mississippi State and Texas A&M), but to be fair each has significant question marks to address entering the 2013-14 campaign.

Arkansas has to replace its top two leading scorers (B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell), Mississippi State is in the second year of a massive rebuilding project and Texas A&M lost Elston Turner and Ray Turner (no relation). Those three being called out for their respective non-conference schedules is countered by Kentucky and Florida ranking among the nation’s best, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

The SEC’s scheduling issue isn’t about all 14 members putting together brutally difficult schedules, but rather understanding the impact of their non-conference slates on the entire conference and scheduling accordingly. Accomplish that task and the SEC shouldn’t have to worry about going through seasons like the 2012-13 campaign in the future.

Toyota Center to host Lone Star Showcase doubleheader

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The Toyota Center in Houston, Texas will play host to a doubleheader on Dec. 21, one of which will serve as the final game of the inagural Big 12-SEC Challenge.

The doubleheader has been named the Lone Star Showcase with the first game of the day being a non-conference matchup between city rivals Rice and Houston. The nightcap will feature Oklahoma and Texas A&M, in their pairing of the Big 12-SEC Challenge.

“This is a very exciting day to have the coaches and schools here to announce a world-class basketball event at Toyota Center,” Houston Rockets CEO Tad Brown told CSN Houston on Tuesday. “We want the basketball fans here in Houston to see the great programs here in the area in action.”

Houston will be in its first season in the American Athletic Conference, after spending 17 seasons in Conference-USA. The Lone Star Showcase is a way to keep the rivalry with Rice — who remains in CUSA — intact.

“We are really excited about playing here at Toyota Center,” Rice head coach Ben Braun said. “Continuing our rivalry with Houston is important and regardless of conference realignment it’s important that we continue to play.

“We have had some great games with Houston and we want to continue this rivalry. It’s important to our program and our fans.”

The Rice-Houston game with tip at 3:30 p.m. followed by the Sooners and Aggies at 6 p.m.

Nerlens Noel’s double-double helps Kentucky outlast Texas A&M in overtime

Nerlens Noel

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.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_