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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Aggies take on top-ranked Wildcats

After a rough 65-44 road loss in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday, the Texas A&M men’s basketball team looks to bounce back with a win against the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in a much anticipated matchup at noon on Saturday in Reed Arena.
This will be the second time A&M (9-4, 0-1 SEC) has played a top-ranked team in Reed Arena, with the previous coming from a 59-54 loss to Kansas on Feb. 15, 2010.
The Kentucky Wildcats (14-0, 1-0 SEC) bring in nine McDonald’s All-Americans and possible future NBA draft picks. Out of those nine players, only one is less than 6’6”. The Wildcats feature the tallest roster in college basketball and only the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA have a squad larger than Kentucky’s.
Aggie head coach Billy Kennedy said that the Wildcats don’t have many weaknesses but the key to beating them is to get rebounds and find scoring opportunities against their defense.
“[Kentucky] is so deep and talented and well-coached defensively,” Kennedy said. “You got to hope they don’t shoot the ball well and you only give them one shot. That’s the biggest key. The hardest thing is scoring against them. We struggled scoring the last couple of games. We have to know when to attack early in transition and move the ball side-to-side to make them guard us and control the tempo a little bit.”
Rather than use starters and backups, Kentucky head coach John Calipari uses a “Blue-White” platoon system, where he attempts to get each player equal minutes on the court.
The backcourt for Kentucky consists of freshman point guard Tyler Ulis, freshman shooting guard Devin Booker and sophomore twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison. Ulis and Booker contribute for the white platoon, while the Harrison twins run the offense in the blue platoon.
Aaron Harrison is the current leading scorer for the Wildcats with 11.4 PPG. Many remember Aaron Harrison from his multiple game-winning shots in last year’s NCAA Tournament that lifted the Wildcats into the championship game.
While Aaron is a deadly shooter from outside and capable of driving the ball inside, Kennedy said that he feels Devin Booker is a much greater threat offensively.
“Then they’ve got [Devin Booker], who I think is the best all-around guard on their team,” Kennedy said. “He is shooting 85 percent from the three-point line in the last five games. I think he is like 12-for-14 from three. We have to get back on defense and make them take contested shots and hope they have a poor shooting night.”
With the talented backcourt that the Wildcats have, they also feature a talented frontcourt with plenty of depth.
For the blue platoon, there is freshman forward Trey Lyles, freshman power forward Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein— who anchors the defense from the Center.
The frontcourt for the white platoon consists of two sophomores in Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee at interchangeable positions.
Senior forward Kourtney Roberson said the Aggies have to stay focused and not let Kentucky’s height intimidate them.
“They’re bigger than us at the four and five position, but coach has said we just have to match their intensity and play well throughout the whole game tomorrow,” Roberson said. “Coach has been telling me to be aggressive and look to score more and rebound and stop dumb fouls. When I foul and I’m not on the court, it will hurt the team. So I have to play without fouling.”
During the Aggies inaugural season in the SEC, the two programs split a pair of games with each winning on the road. A&M won the first matchup 83-71 in Rupp Arena on Jan. 12, 2013, thanks to a 40-point contribution from graduated senior Elston Turner. The Wildcats won the second contest 72-68 in overtime in Reed Arena.
The Aggies were without leading scorer and rebounder Jalen Jones in the loss to Alabama on Tuesday night due to an ankle injury suffered in practice. Kennedy noted that Jones practiced and should be able to play against the Wildcats on Saturday barring no setbacks.
The last time the Wildcats took to the court was in an 89-86 overtime victory at home against Ole Miss on Tuesday. Aaron Harrison led all scorers with 26 points and four rebounds, while his team collectively shot 11-for-20 from three-point range.
The next time the Aggies hit the hardwood will be against Mississippi State at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Reed Arena.

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