Once again, this Kentucky team brought the game right down to the wire. And once again, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander helped provide that extra spark needed for a victory. He came out firing, scoring the game’s first basket – a layup after less than 20 seconds of action – and didn’t stop there. He saw just a minute of bench-time in the first half; he never left the game in the second half. Not only did the point guard come up huge in the final minutes – grabbing the steal that led to Kevin Knox’s layup with 2:28 remaining, securing four rebounds in the final five minutes – but he did so with “noodle legs.”
“I’m a competitor. I like playing; I don’t ever want to come out. But yeah, I’m feeling it right now,” the Gilgeous-Alexander said with a smile. “The last five minutes I could barely feel my legs… my legs felt like noodles.”
The freshman played an exhausting 39 minutes of basketball during the Cats’ 74-73 rally over the Texas A&M Aggies. Without usual-starter Quade Green, who did not dress for the game due to back issues, Gilgeous-Alexander had to step up. And although the freshman may have been helping steady the ship since his breakout, 24-point performance against Louisville, tonight was the first time he had to serve his team as the sole point guard.
“It was interesting not having [Quade Green] there. It took a toll on my body,” Gilgeous-Alexander said after the game. “I’m a competitor, so I just fought through it. I just tried not to think about it and just tried to help my team.”
And help his team he did. Gilgeous-Alexander finished his night with 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He went 4-6 from the free-throw line and committed three turnovers in his 39 minutes of action.
He did commit one costly error down the stretch – a turnover with 43 seconds left in the game. And he wasn’t the only one struggling with holding onto the ball in the final minutes: Knox also let one loose with 27 seconds remaining. What did Coach Calipari have to say about the errors?
“He said that we work on stuff like that in practice, and tonight it showed that we need to take it more serious, and stuff like that,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “But we’re young, and things like that will happen. We’ve just got to play like we’re not young.”
And although Gilgeous-Alexander is a self-described “competitor,” he’s alright with not playing 39 minutes per game once Green returns.
“I’m looking forward to him coming back. He makes us a better team,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Once he’s back, we’ll be better.”