LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Last season, Texas A&M walked into Rupp Arena and strutted out with a victory over Kentucky.
The Aggies weren’t so fortunate Tuesday night, falling 68-51 to the 14th-ranked Wildcats for their second straight Southeastern Conference loss. Texas A&M (12-6, 3-2) opened conference play 3-0 but has stumbled with consecutive road losses.
Kentucky’s size advantage in the post and overall aggressiveness created issues for the Aggies, who were outrebounded 42-24 and had seven shots blocked.
“I really thought Kentucky’s physicalness, their length and just how physical they are, gave us a lot of problems scoring,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “It seemed like when they got to the rim, they got to the free throw line and finished. When we got to the rim, they were blocking shots and changing our shots.”
The Aggies shot 37 percent from the field (19 of 51) and had seven shots altered by Kentucky in the paint. Texas A&M was just 6 of 21 from 3-point range.
“They did a good job of blocking and challenging shots,” Kennedy said. “We haven’t played anybody else who could challenge (shots) like they did. That’s a tribute to them.”
Kentucky pulled away in the second half by utilizing its bench to wear down the Aggies.
Alex Caruso and Davonte Fitzgerald had 12 points each for Texas A&M.
“We’re not a very deep team,” Kennedy said. “But I thought their depth wore us down and they’re just bigger and stronger at every position.”
The Aggies trailed 34-27 at halftime but couldn’t keep pace with the Wildcats in the second half.
Fouls were a factor as leading scorer Jamal Jones picked up three in the first half and was limited to eight points, ending a three-game stretch with 22 or more points.
“We just wanted to be in striking distance at halftime,” Caruso said. “We are a scrappy team, That’s what we do until we finish the long plays and the long defensive stops that we need. I think we said to take everything one play at a time and if we made a mistake, to take it one play at a time.
“We wanted to keep it to where we could make a run down at the end.”
Kentucky’s Alex Poythress helped put things out of reach with 16 points, 14 in the second half. He scored seven straight points during one stretch that pushed a single-digit lead to 44-33 with 14½ minutes remaining.
The sophomore forward was 4 of 7 from the field and had five rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes.
Dakari Johnson added seven rebounds, six points and a career-high three blocks for the Wildcats.
James Young had 15 points and seven rebounds while Julius Randle had 13 points with 11 rebounds for Kentucky, which shot 44 percent (22 of 50) from the field and was 18 of 27 at the free throw line. The Wildcats’ bench outscored the Aggies 25-13 and 15-4 in second-chance points.
Kentucky’s troubling habit of starting slow also ended against Texas A&M as the Wildcats quickly took an 11-5 lead behind two 3-pointers by Andrew Harrison and another from his twin brother Aaron.
Young and Jarrod Polson added long-range baskets to help build the 34-27 halftime lead.
Kentucky built a 46-36 lead on Poythress’ flying one-handed dunk and eventually led by 21 points with 5 minutes remaining.
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