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No. 9 Kentucky rallies to take down Texas A&M

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Kentucky looked like they might get blown out after a sluggish start but the No. 9 Wildcats rallied on Saturday for a 71-63 SEC road win over Texas A&M. The win helped Kentucky capture the outright SEC regular-season title.

Trailing 16-2 to start the game, the Wildcats once again got off to a slow start but they were able to overcome the deficit with a balanced effort.

The Wildcats (26-5, 16-2) have found themselves in compromising situations before during this season and freshman guard Malik Monk’s ability to turn into a supernova and score double-figure points in the blink of an eye has helped Kentucky rally when they were behind.

That version of Monk never showed up on Saturday

Monk only finished with six points on 2-for-10 shooting as he couldn’t get going on offense. So Kentucky, instead, relied on their defense and a balanced offensive effort to climb back into the game as they were able to establish control for the second half.

Freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox paced Kentucky with 19 points — 15 of which came in the second half — as he did a nice job of attacking the basket and staying aggressive on offense. Bam Adebayo (13 points) and Derek Willis (11 points) also finished in double-figures for the Wildcats. Kentucky only finished 29 percent (7-for-24) from three-point range, but with a slower tempo that minimized possessions, it didn’t hurt them as much as a typical game.

Texas A&M (16-14, 8-10) got off to a strong start when they were able to get things done on the interior but their lack of perimeter shooting really hurt them in the end. The Aggies were only 5-for-18 from the perimeter (27 percent) as they couldn’t get much going after the hot start.

Guard Admon Gilder finished with a team-high 22 points while Robert Williams was another bright spot for Texas A&M with 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Ristic, No. 19 Arizona holds off Texas A&M

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HOUSTON — Playing with a seven-man rotation, Arizona coach Sean Miller admitted his team wore down late against Texas A&M.

The Wildcats had just enough left to fight off the Aggies on Saturday.

Dusan Ristic tied a season-high with 18 points as No. 19 Arizona had to hold off a furious rally by Texas A&M for its fourth straight victory, 67-63.

“We have seven scholarship players, and we hit around that 10-minute, 8-minute mark and guys start missing shots and defense is not that easy as it once was,” Miller said. “That is why depth is so critical. . When they sensed we were running out of gas, they put it into overdrive.”

Ristic scored 14 of Arizona’s first 24 points and finished 8 of 12 from the field for the Wildcats (10-2), who shot 40 percent from the field, including 48 percent in the first half.

Lauri Markkanen added 17 points and seven rebounds, and Kobi Simmons chipped in 14 points for the Wildcats.

“We were fortunate to hold on, but I also think we deserved to win,” Miller said.

Tyler Davis had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Robert Williams added 15 points and Admon Gilder had 13 points for the Aggies, who shot 45 percent from the field, including 53 percent in the second half.

Texas A&M (7-3) had its three-game winning streak snapped.

The Aggies mounted a rally over the final 5 minutes, using an 18-0 run to close within 65-63 with 22 seconds left on a 3-pointer by DJ Hogg.

“It demonstrates that we have the ability if we show effort on both ends of the court to win games against really good teams,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “Arizona was better than us for the majority of the game.”

But Rawle Alkins hit two free throws with 15 seconds left to put the Wildcats up by four.

“After the first one, I felt comfortable,” Alkins said. “Coach trusted me and Lauri to make the play happen.”

Tonny Trocha-Morelos missed a 3-pointer, and Davis missed the ensuing putback, allowing Simmons to grab the rebound and dribble out the clock.

Arizona ended the first half with a 9-0 run led by Alkins’ five points to take a 41-28 lead and carried that momentum into the second half, pushing the lead to as many as 22 points with a 17-8 spurt over the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Texas A&M didn’t hit a field goal over the last 5:17 of the first half and shot 3 of 10 with eight turnovers to start the second half.

“For a large portion of the game, that was our best effort because we were playing against a really good team as well,” Miller said.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: The Wildcats have continued to play well since losing to No. 8 Gonzaga on Dec. 3. Arizona defended well, forcing 14 turnovers and converting them into 18 points. The Wildcats were aggressive and attacked the paint, scoring 32 points.

Texas A&M: The Aggies are still looking for a marquee win after falling to 0-3 against the Pac-12 this season. The Aggies allowed Arizona’s post players to control down low until the final 10 minutes and couldn’t take advantage of 15 offensive rebounds, scoring 13 second-chance points.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Arizona: The Wildcats could move up a couple spots after their fourth straight win.

Texas A&M: The Aggies, who were receiving votes to start the season, will likely remain without votes.

JACKSON-CARTWRIGHT UPDATE

Arizona junior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who missed his fifth straight game Saturday with a high ankle sprain, is closer to returning, Miller said.

“We are anxious to get him back,” Miller said. “He is moving in the direction of coming back. If we can have a couple good weeks, we might get him back a little more to the beginning of the conference season.”

UP NEXT

Arizona: Hosts New Mexico on Tuesday before taking 10 days off ahead of Pac-12 play, which starts Dec. 30 at California.

Texas A&M: Hosts Saint Francis (Pa.) on Wednesday before an eight-day break ahead the start of SEC play Dec. 29 against Tennessee.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Texas A&M gets four-star 2017 guard Savion Flagg

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Texas A&M landed an impact perimeter commitment on Wednesday night as four-star guard Savion Flagg committed to the Aggies.

The 6-foot-6 Flagg can play a bit of both guard spots and he’s coming off of a breakout summer in which he elevated to No. 57 in the country in the Rivals Class of 2017 national rankings.

The addition of Flagg is a good one for head coach Billy Kennedy, as Flagg can make plays with the ball in his hands and has good size when he handles the ball. Flagg can also defend multiple spots on the perimeter and he has a chance to be an immediate impact player in the SEC.

Flagg joins four-star guard T.J. Starks and three-star forward Isiah Jasey in Texas A&M’s Class of 2017.

Texas A&M gets commitment from in-state three-star 2017 center

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Texas A&M has recruited a lot of local players the last few classes and that trend continued Monday night with the addition of 6-foot-9 center Isiah Jasey. The native of Killeen, Texas is considered a three-star prospect from Rivals.com in the Class of 2017.

A 240-pound big man who can rebound and protect the rim, Jasey is solid finishing inside, but he doesn’t have much range and isn’t good from the free-throw line. Jasey will take some time to develop, but he has the size and athleticism to eventually make a difference for the Aggies.

Jasey joins three-star guard T.J. Starks, also a native of Texas, in the Aggies’ Class of 2017 recruiting efforts. Recruiting in the state of Texas has been especially interesting with the addition of Jamie Dixon at TCU and Chris Beard at Texas Tech. The Aggies also lost assistant coach Kyle Keller to Stephen F. Austin as well.

Recruiting of in-state kids will be an interesting race with Baylor, SMU, Texas and Texas A&M all doing so well recently and those other schools likely seeing an uptick in recruiting since they have new coaches.

Wooden Legacy bracket announced

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Thursday morning the match-ups for the 2016 Wooden Legacy were announced, an eight-team event that includes programs such as UCLA, Dayton, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. Of the eight teams in the field just two made NCAA tournament appearances last season, Dayton and Texas A&M. Both were eliminated by eventual Final Four participants, with Dayton falling to Syracuse in the first round and Texas A&M losing to Oklahoma in the Sweet 16.

The Wooden Legacy will run from November 24-27, with each team being guaranteed three games and the event taking a day off Saturday, November 26. The first two days of games will be played at Titan Gym on the campus of Cal State Fullerton, with the final round scheduled for the Honda Center in Anaheim.

There will also be one unbracketed game in the Wooden Legacy, with UCLA hosting CSUN Sunday, November 13 at Pauley Pavilion.

Thursday, November 24 (all times Eastern)
2:00 p.m.: Texas A&M vs. CSUN
4:30 p.m.: New Mexico vs. Virginia Tech
8:30 p.m.: Dayton vs. Nebraska
11:00 p.m.: Portland vs. UCLA

Friday, November 25
3:00 p.m.: Consolation #1
5:30 p.m.: Semifinal #1
9:30 p.m.: Consolation #2
Midnight: Semifinal #2

Sunday, November 27
2:00 p.m.: 5th Place Game
4:30 p.m.: 3rd Place Game
8:30 p.m.: Championship Game
11:00 p.m.: 7th Place Game

Texas A&M lands Spanish forward Eric Vila

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With the loss of all-conference forward Jalen Jones, Texas A&M was in a position where they could afford to add another front court body alongside the likes of Tyler Davis and Tonny Trocha-Morelos. Thursday afternoon head coach Billy Kennedy and his staff managed to do just that, as 6-foot-9 forward Eric Martinez Vila made his pledge to the SEC program.

News of Vila’s commitment was first reported by TexAgs.com, and the FC Barcelona Lassa (that’s the club’s basketball program) product took visits to Texas A&M, Missouri and Wake Forest earlier this spring. Vila’s viewed as more of a combo forward, with the ability to step away from the basket and hit perimeter shots, giving the Aggies some added versatility in the front court.

Vila has plenty of experience playing for both FC Barcelona’s B team (however he did appear with the A-team during the 2014-15 season), and he represented Spain in the 2014 FIBA U16 EuroBasket and 2015 FIBA U18 EuroBasket events. Vila is the fifth member of Texas A&M’s 2016 class, joining guards J.J. Caldwell and J.C. Hampton, wing DeShawn Corprew and forward Robert Williams.