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Despite one of its worst offensive performances of the season, Kentucky basketball handed Texas A&M its first SEC loss of the season with a 64-58 win in front of a sellout crowd in College Station.
Kentucky trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half but closed the lead to five at halftime. The Wildcats took their first lead on a Kellan Grady second-chance layup with nine minutes remaining in the game. Kentucky took the lead for good on a Jacob Toppin dunk with 6:19 remaining.
The final six minutes was played within four points. Freshman guard TyTy Washington, who hit just 3 of 10 shots in the game, drilled two jumpers in the final five minutes to keep Kentucky's lead.
UK led by three points when Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams called a timeout with 27.2 seconds left, but the Aggies did not score again. Kentucky made 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch to close out the win.
Here is what you need to know about the victory:
Kentucky overcomes poor shooting night
Four days posting one of the best offensive performances of the John Calipari era by shooting 67.9% in a blowout of Tennessee, the Wildcats posted one of their worst shooting performances of the season.
Kentucky converted just 36.2% of its shots and 4 of 18 3-point attempts. Grady, who ranked second in the SEC in 3-point percentage entering the night, was 2 for 10 from the field and 1 for 9 from 3-point range. Davion Mintz converted 5 of 7 free throws but hit just 2 of 7 shots.
"I love those games, just absolutely love them," Calipari said of the ugly victory.
Calipari was quick to credit the non-shooting contributions of Mintz, who tallied eight rebounds, and Jacob Toppin as being essential to the win.
For as bad as Kentucky was from 3-point range, Texas A&M was even worse, hitting just 1 of 22 attempts from long range. Kentucky converted just 18 of 26 free throws (69.2%), but Texas A&M was 5 for 13 (38.5%) at the free-throw line.
After shooting 50% from the field in the first half, Texas A&M made just 29.4% of its field-goal attempts in the second half.
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Sahvir Wheeler struggles in return home
Kentucky might have been blown out by halftime without Wheeler's nine points on 4-of-6 shooting in the first half, but the Houston native struggled for much of the night against the Aggies' pressure defense.
Wheeler finished the game with a career-high eight turnovers. The 5-foot-9 point guard never found an answer to Texas A&M's trap when he picked up his dribble. He was able to score in the first half by quickly driving to the basket, but at other times his speed seemed to backfired as he looked out of control.
"I did a really bad job in this pick-and-roll stuff for Sahvir and made him look bad," Calipari said. "We got to be better prepared for what we’re doing. You try to talk him through, but you’ve got to drill it. This is what we’re doing."
Wheeler was benched for part of the second half but returned to the court for the final 5:31 after Grady was slowed by a leg injury. He did not record a turnover after returning to the floor.
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Kentucky overcomes record crowd
UK earned its first road win of the season last week at Vanderbilt, but the environment in Nashville was nothing compared to College Station on Wednesday.
The Vanderbilt game was played in front of a pro-UK crowd with students barred from the game due to COVID-19 policies. Texas A&M boasted a Reed Arena record with an announced crowd of 14,036.
The environment appeared to rattle Kentucky early in the game, but the Wildcats' nerves eventually settled enough to close out a win. That experience could be essential with most of Kentucky's opportunities for NCAA Tournament resume-boosting wins down the stretch coming on the road.
"We walked into the locker room after the game and the first thing we said was way to stay together," Toppin said. "In a close game like this, the environment was crazy. For us to stay together when they went on their runs, it’s big."
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky basketball vs. Texas A&M: UK overcomes poor shooting night