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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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‘Anything can happen’

After starting the conference-play portion of its schedule at a pace last seen in the 2015-16 season, Texas A&M men’s basketball — 15-2 overall and 4-0 in the SEC — will shift its focus to No. 12 Kentucky.

Tipping off at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 19 in Reed Arena, the Aggies will have a chance to extend their win streak to nine. Largely propelled this far by conference-leading 3-point shooting at 37.4% and a stout defense forcing 10.8 steals per game, the maroon and white’s next challenge in the Wildcats is unique.

Kentucky will enter the game with the SEC’s second-best 3-point shooting percentage and one of the country’s fastest offenses, which A&M coach Buzz Williams cited as “Indy 500-type-fast.”

“We’ll have our hands full tomorrow. Kentucky is the fastest team in the country in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock,” Williams said. “They have started out in league play at a really high clip, offensively.”

This offensive efficiency within Kentucky’s program is best underscored by its last performance, a nearly 40-point win with 100-plus points scored against Tennessee. A&M will enter the game following a win marked by the team’s second-worst shooting performance of the year and was only won through a gritty, second-half comeback; polar opposite to Kentucky’s last.

“We did not play very well, and that’s a credit to how hard Missouri played,” Williams said. “They were much more physical than we were. We were much better at being who we need to be in the second half. That’s kind of part of playing at this level; there’s not a bye week, it’s nine consecutive weeks with no bye game.”

The Aggies leading scorer is fifth-year senior guard Quenton Jackson, who has come in off the bench this season to average 12.9 points per game on 47.2% shooting from the field. Since opening conference play, Jackson’s scoring volume has decreased and sophomore forward Henry Coleman III has led the team in scoring in the four-game span.

After opening the season with a 27-point performance and then only reaching double-digit points twice more, Coleman has erupted in SEC competition with four consecutive 14-plus games, averaging 18.3 points, six rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

“What we need to do the most is mature, and our race to maturity has nothing to do with the opponent; it has to do with the foundation that we laid this summer when we all got here,” Williams said. “Maybe less than you think, [I] talk about an opponent or an evaluation of a player from someone else’s team.”

Despite their impressive record, the Aggies have yet to be ranked in the top 25. Junior guard Andre Gordon said the game against Kentucky is an opportunity to make a statement that gives A&M more national recognition.

“I think this win will be a big win if we beat Kentucky,” Gordon said. “This would put us on the map a little bit more.”

Now in the third year of Williams’ bumpy tenure, the Aggies seem to have finally found their groove and are playing at levels not seen in Aggieland for years. Junior guard Tyrece Radford, a transfer from Virginia Tech, said the team knows its strengths but has to focus on staying disciplined.

“Speaking for the team, I think I know how good we can be — but we just can’t let that get to our heads,” Radford said. “Any given night anything can happen. You can lose to a good team, you can lose to a not-so-good team, but you just have to stay humble and grind it.”

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