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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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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Surging Aggies host No. 24 Kentucky

Junior+Center%26%23160%3BTyler+Davis+fights+a+defender+inside+the+paint+to+try+and+score.
Photo by Photo by Kevin Chou

Junior Center Tyler Davis fights a defender inside the paint to try and score.

Riding a three-game win streak and coming off an upset win against No. 8 Auburn, the A&M men’s basketball team (16-8, 5-6 SEC) will host No. 24 Kentucky (11-7, 6-5 SEC) in a pivotal matchup for both teams’ NCAA tournament seedings.

The Wildcats defeated the Aggies in their first meeting, 74-73, in a game that saw just six lead changes. The game also saw a very competitive matchup in the paint with Wildcat freshmen big men Kevin Knox and P.J. Washington combining for 31 points. Conversely, Aggie big men Tyler Davis and Robert Williams combined for 33 points. The Aggies will have to neutralize Kentucky’s duo in the low post again in order to try to get revenge on the Wildcats.

The Aggies will also have to do a better job of making free throws, which is something that has troubled them all season and nearly cost them the game against Auburn on Wednesday. A&M finished Wednesday’s game making 58 percent (14-of-24) from behind the charity stripe and are shooting 68 percent on the season, which ranks 271th out of the 351 D1 basketball programs.

“I think we have to manage our possessions better down the stretch, something we didn’t do great at against Auburn. In the last five minutes, when it becomes a half-court game, we’ve got to do a better job of executing,” Kennedy said.

If the Wildcats do elect to play a lot of zone against the maroon and white, it will open up three-point shots for D.J. Hogg. Hogg is 6-of-14 from behind the arc in the last three games, and the Aggies have lost just one game all season when Hogg has netted more than two three-pointers.  

“D.J. is a key figure for sure. He’s been a key figure in the last few games that we’ve won because he’s been a threat and making at least one shot a game. It’s been a big plus for us because if you don’t guard him he’s going to get it going,” Kennedy said.

A key determinant in the matchup will be the rebounding battle. The Aggies rank first in the SEC in rebounds per game, averaging 41.8. However, Kentucky outrebounded the Aggies 28 to 27 in the teams’ first meeting.

Defensively, the Aggies will also have to keep a keen eye on freshman Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who has really found his stride and is averaging 12.8 points per game on the season and 20 points per game in the last three games.

“He’s the key to their team in so many ways, he hurt us last game a lot. He’s got good pace, he’s got good size and we’ve got to do a better job of corralling him because he’s a weapon and can beat you sometimes by himself,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy is confident that the Aggies will have a much better chance of winning this game as the team is completely different than in the two teams’ first matchup

“We’re better. This isn’t Admon’s first game back, he’s been a big lift for us. I think our roles are more identified. T.J. Starks is coming off a really good game and he’s been more consistent at the point, we’re a lot more established than the last time,” Kennedy said.

The 12th man is also confident that the Aggies will be able to keep this momentum going and defeat the Wildcats. The athletic department announced that the game is sold out except for some remaining student tickets that will be held for sales at the door. Among those in attendance will be former football star Johnny Manziel.

 

The game will be a white-out with white “BTHO Kentucky” t-shirts placed on every seat.

 

 

“[The shirts are] amazing, I hope it’s packed tomorrow. It’ll be the first time since I’ve been here that it will be packed like this,” Williams said. “[The fans are] a big energy booster. I think A&M fans hold a grudge against Kentucky basketball from my standpoint, so I know they’ll bring all the energy.”

The game will be televised on ESPN with tip off scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

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