Hamidou Diallo led No. 21 Kentucky with 18 points and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, in the absence of starting point guard Quade Green, finished with 16 points, seven boards, five assists and two blocks as the Wildcats knocked off Texas A&M, 74-73, in controversial fashion on Tuesday night.
In a game with a sloppy finish featuring a handful of missed free throws by both teams, a missed front-end from Kentucky’s P.J. Washington with 3.9 seconds left led to what could have been a game-winning bucket for the Aggies.
The play was simple. Without any timeouts, as soon as Texas A&M grabbed the defensive rebound the ball was heaved the length of the court towards center Tyler Davis, who had Wenyen Gabriel sealed up the lane. Gabriel appeared to foul Davis – if this was football he would have been flagged for pass interference – but no whistle was blown:
And with that, the Aggies fell to 0-4 in the SEC.
In a vacuum, losing to Kentucky by a point in Rupp Arena is hardly a bad loss, even in a year where the Wildcats aren’t as good as they usually are; it’s almost like home court advantage exists and often manifests itself in the way referees officiate games. (If you can’t that’s sarcasm … it is.)
What makes this result troubling is the fact that the Aggies have yet to play with a full roster in an SEC game this season. First, Admon Gilder hurt his knee. Then D.J. Hogg was suspended. Then Robert Williams got sick and, finally, Duane Wilson got himself hurt as well. That’s three starters and, arguably, A&M’s most talented player.
And suddenly, Texas A&M looks like they could be in danger of squandering a team that may be more talented than any that Billy Kennedy coaches again.
When healthy, the Aggies are Final Four good. They’re the best team in the SEC when everyone is available, but their chances of winning an SEC regular season title are all but gone, and with their next game coming at No. 24 Tennessee, an 0-5 start to conference play is a very real possibility.
The good news is that missing all of those players will be factored in when the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee looks at their résumé, and given how weak leagues like the Pac-12, Big Ten, Atlantic 10 and Mountain West are, there should be plenty of bids available. The SEC is a bear this year, and while that means that A&M’s schedule is not going to be easy the rest of the way, the other side of it is that they are good enough to win the games they need to win and there should be enough quality wins available on their schedule than an NCAA tournament berth isn’t a pipe dream.
Simply getting into the tournament is probably all that A&M needs to be worried about right now.
At the end of the day, if Tremont Waters doesn’t make two ridiculous threes in the final 12 seconds and the foul on Gabriel actually gets called, the Aggies are 2-2 in the SEC and coming off of a win in Rupp Arena.
They really aren’t that far away.