FACTS & STATS: Site: Rupp Arena (23,500) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Texas A&M 9-1, UK 8-1. Away Record: Texas A&M 1-0, UK 1-2. Neutral Record: Texas A&M 1-2, UK 1-1. Conference Record: Texas A&M 1-0, UK 1-0. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Kentucky Wildcats and the Texas A&M Aggies both attempt to move to 2-0 in SEC play on Saturday afternoon when the two teams meet at Rupp Arena.
Texas A&M faced its first-ever SEC test on Wednesday night at home against Arkansas and it passed with flying colors, cruising to a 69-51 win to begin its tenure in a brand new conference. The Aggies have now won four of their last five games and are sitting with an impressive 11-3 record through the first two months of the season.
Kentucky's first conference victory was no easy feat, as it squeaked by Vanderbilt on the road on Thursday night, 60-58. It was the Wildcats' sixth win in their last seven outings, but considering they began the season ranked No. 3 in the nation, their 10-4 record has hardly been the stuff of legend.
UK has won two of the three previous meetings with Texas A&M, but the new conference rivals haven't faced each other since 1979.
After a hotly-contested first half against Arkansas the last time out, Texas A&M was able to pull away after intermission by shooting 44 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes, but mostly because of its great showing from the foul line (15-of-17). Fabyon Harris was perfect on his 10 free throw attempts and finished the game with 17 points. Kourtney Roberson tallied a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Elston Turner added 15 points and eight boards in the triumph. Scoring hasn't been the Aggies' strong suit this year, as it nets just 65.5 ppg, but they have an outstanding scoring defense (58.6 ppg) and they sport positive rebounding (plus-3.1) and turnover (plus-0.9) margins. Elston Turner does much of his damage from beyond the arc, draining 36-of-85 3-point tries (.424) on his way to a team-best 15.5 ppg. Ray Turner has played well in the paint, making nearly 59 percent of his field goal attempts for 11.8 ppg while adding 6.7 rpg. Harris chips in 10.2 ppg, and he has only missed five of his 40 attempts from the charity stripe (.875).
The Wildcats claimed a nine-point halftime lead over Vanderbilt, but they went cold from the field after intermission (.333) as the Commodores climbed their way back into the game. Kyle Wiltjer drained a jumper with just under two minutes to play to give them the lead, and it proved to be the game-winner as they held on for the nail-biting two-point win. Ryan Harrow led the way with 16 points, while Nerlens Noel (13 points, seven rebounds, three blocks), Archie Goodwin (12 points), and Willie Cauley-Stein (seven points, eight rebounds, four blocks, two steals) were also productive. Kentucky may have squeaked by on Thursday night, but it is used to putting together much more dominant performances, as it sports an outstanding plus-17.3 scoring margin but outshooting its opponents, .489 to .371. Goodwin is not only the team's leading scorer at 15.6 ppg, but he also grabs 5.1 rpg and hands out 3.8 apg. Alex Poythress (13.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) makes an astounding 64.2 percent of his field goal attempts, while Wiltjer (11.3 ppg) has shot 33-of-78 from 3-point range (.423). Noel (10.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.5 bpg, 2.6 spg) and Cauley-Stein (7.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 1.1 spg) make their presence felt at both ends of the floor.
Although the talent is most certainly there, Kentucky hasn't played its best basketball when in the spotlight. Texas A&M will give the Wildcats a run for their money, but ultimately the home team will be feed off the energy in the building to come away with the victory.