Kentucky will challenge A&M guards

·3 min read

Jan. 19—Texas A&M might present a considerable challenge when No. 12 Kentucky visits College Station for a Wednesday night SEC Network matchup.

The Aggies like to play multiple guards at times, going small to create driving lanes.

The Aggies are a stingy defensive unit, allowing just 62.9 points per game, a 40.8 field-goal percentage and are seventh nationally in turnovers forced at 18.6 per game.

Texas A&M is led in scoring by its sixth man, Quenton Jackson, who comes off the bench to average 12.9 points per game. The Aggies have a balanced attack, with four players averaging at least 9.5 points per game. Defensively, Jackson, Andre Gordon and Marcus Williams are among the SEC top 15 in steals per game.

"They have really good guard play," said Bruiser Flint, Kentucky's associate head coach who spoke to the media on Tuesday. "They've won a lot of close games, their guard play has been phenomenal. It's one of the more balanced teams in the league from watching them on film. This is going to be a challenge.

"They have guys who can make plays when they need them. They get after you defensively, they put a lot of pressure on you offensively. It's one of the more balanced teams in the league. It's going to be tough down there. This is going to be a challenge."

With this matchup falling after Kentucky's best game of the season, a 107-79 beating of Tennessee last Saturday, and ahead of a road trip to No. 2 Auburn, there's a strong sense of calling this a 'trap game' for the Wildcats.

Flint claims the team is having none of that.

"You don't have a trap game when they are 5-0 and No. 1 in the league," Flint said. "They've beaten everybody in the conference, they are in first place in the SEC. If you think that's a trap game, you're crazy. We better be ready."

The Aggies are one game back of Auburn in the win column at 4-0 in the league, 15-2 overall. Kentucky is 4-1 in the SEC and 14-3 overall. UK is No. 10 in the NCAA NET rankings. Texas A&M is No. 51. Kentucky is No. 5 in the Kenpom Rankings and A&M is No. 59.

Texas A&M might go four guards at times, but Kentucky should be more than up for that challenge because of its superb backcourt as well.

Sahvir Wheeler has returned at the point after missing a couple of games with a neck injury. Freshman TyTy Washington stepped in at point when Wheeler was out and did a fine job in two wins.

In addition to Washington and Wheeler, the Cats are getting big contributions from Kellan Grady and Davion Mintz. Wheeler likes UK's back court.

"I think the biggest thing is that we're all playing confident," Wheeler said. "We're spending extra time in the gym. We're trusting our training and we're a veteran backcourt, outside of TyTy, but TyTy is as mature as it gets. With Kellan, Davion and myself, we kind of know what to expect. We don't really force anything. We know if it's our turn, we're going to be aggressive. But we also keep each other motivated. And we're playing unselfish. When you've got guys who are playing unselfish and wiling to play for each other, it's hard to focus on just one player."

Kentucky has a significant size advantage, especially inside, with Oscar Tshiebwe leading the way.

Through games on Jan. 15, Tshiebwe leads the country in rebounding (14.9) and defensive rebounding percentage (36.2%). His 12 double-doubles rank second nationally.

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