Mark Story

Instant analysis: Who’s up, who’s down after Kentucky’s 85-74 win over Texas A&M

Photo slideshow: Kentucky defeats Texas A&M 85-74

Kentucky's men's basketball team defeated Texas A&M 85-74 Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Rupp Arena in Lexington.
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Kentucky's men's basketball team defeated Texas A&M 85-74 Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Rupp Arena in Lexington.

Instant analysis from No. 18 Kentucky’s 85-74 win over Texas A&M:

How the game was won

Kentucky’s Tyler Herro scored 21 points and hit a crucial three-pointer from the right wing with 5:52 left in the game to open a three-point UK lead to six and spark the Wildcats to victory.

Game balls

1. Tyler Herro. Missing that potential game-winner last Saturday at Alabama did not faze the UK freshman (7-of-14 field goals, five rebounds) at all.

2. Ashton Hagans. The UK point guard turned in another stellar all-around game with 18 points, five steals and five assists. The week is going well for athletes from Cartersville, Ga.

3. Jemarl Baker. Reputed to be a shooting specialist, the UK redshirt freshman— only now rounding into form after being injured for most of his UK tenure — had four points, three assists and played some quality defense, too.

Kentucky coach John Calipari talks to the media after his team's 85-74 win over Texas A&M on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, at Rupp Arena in Lexington. UK fell behind 10-0 early before recording its firsts SEC win of the season.

What to worry about

1. Slow UK starts to halves. Texas A&M began the game on a 12-2 run and started the second half with a 6-2 mini-spurt.

2. Kentucky three-point defense. Continuing a season-long trend, UK allowed A&M to hit 47.1 percent (8-of-17) of its treys.

3. Keldon Johnson. The UK swingman had a rugged go vs. the Aggies — 2-of-9 field goals, 0-of-4 treys, four turnovers in 27 minutes.

Key number(s)

One. Kentucky is now 74-5 in SEC home games during the John Calipari era. With A&M’s loss, Florida — which scored wins over UK in Rupp in 2013-14 and last season — remains the one conference foe to have beaten Calipari-coached teams twice in Rupp.

Texas A&M (2012-13), Arkansas (2013-14) and Tennessee (last season) are the SEC teams with single wins vs. Cal in Rupp.

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The Cat-mosphere

Chloe Abbott, a junior sprinter on the UK track and field team after transferring from Purdue where she was a three-time, First Team All-American, performed a boffo version of the national anthem.

UK had a remembrance of former Wildcats center Bob Burrow on the Rupp Arena video boards in the pregame. Burrow, who scored 1,023 points and grabbed 823 rebounds for Adolph Rupp in 1954-56 after transferring from Lon Morris Junior College in Texas, died Jan. 3 at age 84.

In the final TV timeout of the first half, Kentucky star running back Benny Snell was shown on the Rupp Arena video boards as he sat on press row. Let’s just say his reception from the UK crowd was warm.

Dan Issel, the all-time leading scorer (2,138 points) in UK men’s basketball history, was the “Y.” Issel then walked off the court and asked Benny Snell to pose for a selfie together — which they did.

Up next

No. 18 Kentucky (11-3, 1-1 SEC) will face Vanderbilt (9-4, 0-1 SEC) at 8:30 p.m. Saturday in a game that will be telecast by the SEC Network. Before coming to Lexington, the Commodores travel to Georgia to face the Bulldogs on Wednesday night for a 6:30 p.m. tip on the SEC Network.

UK leads the all-time series with Vandy 145-47.

Know your foe

1. Vanderbilt dropped its SEC opener at home to Mississippi 81-71 last Saturday. Ole Miss hit 15 of 26 field-goal tries (57.7 percent) in the second half to win in Memorial Gym. Simisola Shittu, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound freshman, led Vandy with 21 points and nine rebounds.

2. Vandy’s 2018-19 prospects were dealt a harsh blow when star freshman point guard Darius Garland was lost for the season to a meniscus injury in his left knee during the Commodores’ 77-75 loss to Kent State on Nov. 23. A homegrown Nashville product, the 6-1, 165-pound Garland was the No. 17-ranked prospect in the Rivals 150 for the class of 2018.

In the five games Garland got to play, he averaged 16.2 points and shot 53.7 percent from the floor and 47.8 percent on three-pointers.

3. Now in his third season at Vanderbilt, Commodores Coach Bryce Drew is 0-4 against Kentucky. Under Drew, the former star player and head coach at Valparaiso, Vandy has played UK tough — the Commodores’ four losses to the Cats have been by six, six, seven and two points in overtime.

Kentucky coach John Calipari talks to the media after his team's 85-74 win over Texas A&M on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, at Rupp Arena in Lexington. UK fell behind 10-0 early before recording its firsts SEC win of the season.

Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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