TEXAS A&M 83, KENTUCKY 71
Jan. 12, 2013
Rupp Arena; Lexington, Ky.
Nerlens Noel's big game wasn't enough to stop Texas A&M (Darrell Bird/TCP)
Nerlens Noel had the best game of his young career but it wasn't enough to one-up Elston Turner's one-man show.
Turner poured in 40 points - besting his career-high by 14 - as Texas A&M stunned Kentucky for an 83-71 victory. The Aggies had an answer for every Wildcats' run but it was an 18-2 run after falling behind 62-58 with 6:10 remaining that sent the Cats to just their second loss at Rupp Arena under John Calipari. Ironically, both defeats have come to schools that were in the Big 12 last season.
Noel was magnificent for Kentucky, almost single-handedly keeping the game within reach with 15 points, 11 rebounds, seven blocks, six assists and four steals. It still wasn't
Turner's 25 points at halftime constituted the most any opposing player had scored against the Cats this season, besting the 23 recorded by Duke's Seth Curry and Maryland's Alex Lin. Calipari tried three different defenders and a zone defense to cool Turner's jets but none were effective.
on concerns about making the NCAA Tournament
“I think we'll be fine but you've got to win games. For us going forward, each game we play, we just have to worry about being the best team in the gym. We don't need to worry about anyone else, just be the best team in the gym.”
“'I'm going to be real, I just sat back and watched the show.” – Texas A&M guard Fabyon Harris, on Elston Turner's 40-point game
FROM THE LOCKER ROOM
“Cal’s done enough for us. It’s about time we take the responsibility for things. We’ve been doing pretty good, but we’ve just gotta kick it up a notch, just keep listening to Coach. He’s definitely put us in the right direction, but there’s a time that us as players gotta start taking the responsibility. I feel that time is now.” – UK forward Nerlens Noel
It went for naught but the reasons Nerlens Noel has been listed as the likely top overall pick in next summer's NBA Draft were all on display in this game. Noel was the one consistent thing for the Cats, playing with extraordinary energy and effort throughout as he tried to will the Cats to a victory. The freshman flirted with a triple-double – perhaps even a quadruple-double – by scoring 15 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, blocking seven shots, dishing out six assists and ripping four steals. It looked like the freshman forward would be the story when his back-to-back steals led to a pair of transition baskets that gave UK a 62-58 lead with 6:10 left before Elston Turner stole top billing.
You could make an argument that Kentucky allowing Elston Turner to get four clean looks a jumpers to start the game changed the entire afternoon because it gave him confidence but the real momentum shift came after the Cats finally appeared to have taken control of the game with six minutes left. Noel's back-to-back steals helped give UK a four-point lead but Turner answered with a deep three to spark the deciding 18-2 run for the Aggies. The swingman also hit a three-point dagger when he crossed over Archie Goodwin, stepped back and buried an NBA-length triple to make it 68-63 with 3:03 remaining.
There appears to be a growing issue between Kentucky coach John Calipari and longtime SEC official Doug Shows, a development worth watching as the season goes along and the coach's frustration level rises. Shows hit Calipari with a technical foul in the middle of a Cats' offensive possession just 91 seconds into the second half, although nothing obvious had transpired in leading up to that point. This bears watching because Calipari spent much of the Cats' loss to Louisville displaying obvious displeasure with Shows and was hit with a technical foul by Ed Corbett for screaming at Shows from across the court. The technical foul did not affect this game but the relationship between these two could become an issue later in the season.
10 – You win basketball games with defense and Kentucky played very little of it down the stretch. The Aggies made their final 10 field goal attempts and 12 of their final 13 after falling behind 51-49 with 11:06 remaining. Included in those 12 made field goals were four three-pointers and the only miss was a wide-open three that reserve Jordan Green missed. Texas A&M shot 52.5 percent for the game, the first time a team has made 50 percent of its shots against the Cats since Indiana hit 52.2 percent in last season's NCAA Tournament game.
The unthinkable is now completely possible: Kentucky is at the point where it has serious concerns about how many more games it can afford to lose the rest of the way. The Cats are firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble and without a single quality win, leaving them absolutely no margin for error. Could the defending NCAA champions miss the Big Dance? At this pace, it is entirely possible.
Kentucky (10-5, 1-1) will try to rebound when it host Tennessee at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
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