Early in the second half, Nerlens Noel dunked emphatically. Then he flexed his arms. The Rupp Arena crowd roared.
"Yeah, yeah, let's go!" Noel said.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari turned to a player on the bench: the almost always unemotional Alex Poythress.
"You do that!" Calipari advised. "You do that!"
Although Texas A&M beat Kentucky 83-71, Noel looked like a team leader in terms of effort. He flirted with a quadruple-double. With more than six minutes left, he already had 13 points, nine rebounds, six assists and seven blocks.
Only the brilliance of Elston Turner's 40-point starburst obscured Noel's impressive performance. The UK freshman set two career highs (seven made free throws, six assists), equaled two others (eight free throws attempted, seven blocks) and posted his second double-double (15 points and 11 rebounds).
When a reporter suggested that Noel looked like a leader, Calipari said, "Got to practice that way. Can't just do it in games. Have to practice every day and have everybody know that you're preparing yourself to be great.
"And as he does that, yeah, he could be one of those guys."
Noel acknowledged that he needed to be more demonstrative in practices.
"I've been trying," he said. "It's just a little harder in a new experience being on the team."
UK came into the game with a defense ranked No. 14 in the nation in limiting opponents to 37.1-percent shooting. Texas A&M ranked No. 230 in points (65.5 per game) and No. 268 in three-point baskets (5.1 per game).
So what happens? A&M shot 52.5 percent, the best by a UK opponent this season. The Aggies equaled their season-high of nine three-pointers, which was also the most by a UK opponent this season.
Coach Billy Kennedy acknowledged his surprise in equaling a season-high of 83 points against a UK defense that had limited opponents to 60.6 points.
"For us to score 83 points against their defense was incredible," he said. "And it took a special performance."
That's a reference to Turner's 40 points.
Message to SEC?
UK had not lost a home SEC game with Calipari as coach. Did A&M's victory send a message to the rest of the league that Kentucky is not invincible at home?
"The message is Kentucky is really young," Kennedy said. "That's the big message."
UK fell to 10-5, which marked the program's poorest start since Billy Gillispie's first season as coach (2007-08).
Is the team's confidence shaken?
"I hope this doesn't mess with anybody's confidence," point guard Ryan Harrow said, "because we've been working so hard. We've got to keep guys' morale up in the next practice and be focused on the next game."
UK next plays Tuesday night against Tennessee. It will be the Cats' third game in six days.
Archie Goodwin led UK with 17 points and 16 shots. That continued a pattern.
In the last five games, he's averaged 13.6 shots and 15.4 points. In that span, he's made 38.2 percent of his shots.
Junior guard Jon Hood was in Rupp Arena shooting two hours before tip. He has not played in the last five games after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. Doctors cleared Hood to shoot and work out. He is still waiting for medical clearance to return to the practice and games.
UK's starting guards (Goodwin and Harrow) combined for nine turnovers. ... A&M extended its winning streak in Rupp Arena to four games. The Aggies beat Kentucky 73-69 in the 1979 UKIT. Then A&M beat Penn and Louisville here in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. The victory in the 1979 UKIT meant that Saturday marked the second victory over a defending national championship Kentucky team. ... Peter Warden, a member of the office staff when Gillispie was UK coach, sat on the A&M bench. He's the Aggies' Director of Internal Operations.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com