John Calipari isn’t accustomed to losing consecutive games at Kentucky.
His young, inexperienced squad helped him narrowly avoid such a predicament on Tuesday.
No. 21 Kentucky rallied to avoid a second consecutive loss in Southeastern Conference play, defeating Texas A&M 74-73 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. The Wildcats improved to 41-8 in games following a loss in Calipari’s nine seasons on campus.
Hamidou Diallo scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half for Kentucky (13-3, 3-1 SEC), which starts five freshmen and boasts no seniors on its roster.
The Wildcats were coming off an 11-point loss at No. 23 Tennessee on Saturday. A second straight defeat looked like a strong possibility with 8:44 to go in the game when Texas A&M (11-5, 0-4) took its largest lead of the contest, 59-53, on a D.J. Hogg layup.
However, layups by P.J. Washington, Diallo and Kevin Knox got Kentucky within 61-59 by the 6:04 mark. Knox, who went 5-for-5 from the floor and finished with 15 points, tied the score at 67 with a pair of free throws with 2:44 to play.
Knox followed with a layup after Washington stole the ball and found Knox downcourt to give the Wildcats a 69-67 lead they managed to hold for good.
However, the Aggies didn’t relent, and Kentucky had to sweat out a pair of open 3-point tries late to hold on for the victory. Tyler Davis had 21 points, including 14 in the first half, and five rebounds for Texas A&M, which hasn’t won since Dec. 21.
After trailing at the half, Texas A&M forged ahead early in the second half and grabbed a 44-39 lead at the 17:31 mark on a 3-pointer by Admon Gilder (14 points). However, Diallo scored five consecutive points to tie it at 44.
Washington and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander each scored 16 points for the Wildcats.
Kentucky, which next plays at Vanderbilt on Saturday, ensured another close contest against Texas A&M as it only made 22 of 34 free-throw attempts. The Wildcats and Aggies had gone to overtime in four of their previous seven meetings.
The Aggies shot 14 of 24 from the free-throw line.
--Field Level Media