It took a little longer than expected, but Kentucky kicked off the rust at Rupp Arena to defeat Texas A&M 85-74. The Cats earned their first SEC victory in spite of a slow start and poor play from their most consistent scorers.
Texas A&M came out hot. Kentucky was blitzed by the Aggies, trailing 10-0 after 4:30. Following the loss at Alabama, it was not an ideal start. Luckily, it was not meant to last. The Cats responded with a 24-6 run to take the lead for good.
Kentucky’s big run was fueled by the bench. Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery provided the energy to create turnovers that led to easy buckets.
The lead would not last, largely thanks to the newfound struggles from Kentucky’s Big Three — P.J. Washington, Reid Travis and Keldon Johnson. Once UK’s unquestioned top three players, the trio produced just eight points and six rebounds in the first half.
While they struggled to rediscover their game, A&M cut the lead to 66-64 with eight minutes to play. A pair of threes from Quickley and Tyler Herro ended that run and dashed all of the Aggies’ hopes. Few could claim they were better than Herro Tuesday night. The freshman sharpshooter made 50 percent of his shots to score a game-high 21 points. Ashton Hagans added 18 points and 5 steals.
Kentucky’s win was much-needed. The next step in this team’s progression is preventing P.J., Reid and Keldon from getting stuck in a long-term funk.
UPDATE (1/9 10:00 a.m.): According to UK, an assist at the 12:36 mark of the first half was incorrectly awarded to Keldon Johnson. It should have been credited to Ashton Hagans, who had five assists, not four.