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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Ben Roberts

Kentucky lets loose from 3-point range, holds off Texas A&M for third straight win

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky kept the momentum in its favor Saturday afternoon.

The Wildcats defeated Texas A&M, 76-67, in Rupp Arena for their third consecutive victory to continue a stretch of winning basketball on the heels of a shocking loss in the same building just 11 days earlier.

Now nearly two weeks removed from the low point of their season — that stunning loss to lowly South Carolina in Rupp — the Cats have defeated No. 5 Tennessee on the road and Georgia and Texas A&M at home.

This one didn’t come easy.

Antonio Reeves led Kentucky with 23 points — going 5 for 11 from 3-point range — as Kentucky put up 21 3s in the first half and continued to attempt deep shots at a high rate.

The Cats went 11 for 32 on 3s, one shy of most 3-point attempts during the John Calipari era and the most a Kentucky team had shot in more than 11 years.

Jacob Toppin added 17 for the Wildcats, and UK star Oscar Tshiebwe grabbed 17 rebounds for the game despite being limited due to foul trouble in the first half.

UK got off to yet another slow start offensively, missing six of its first seven shots from the floor, though Texas A&M turnovers helped keep the score close for the Wildcats, who went into the first TV timeout trailing 6-3.

Calipari subbed in Reeves for Chris Livingston at that point, and the UK lineup many have been clamoring to see — Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Reeves, Toppin and Tshiebwe — ended up scoring seven points on four possessions to give UK a 10-9 lead before Tshiebwe headed to the bench for a rest.

Kentucky went on a little offensive flurry later in the half — including back-to-back 3s from Livingston — but the shooting woes continued. The Cats were just 11 for 36 from the field in the first half (30.6%) and trailed the Aggies by two points at the break.

The teams traded baskets out of halftime, and neither side was able to build a second-half lead of greater than four points until Tshiebwe batted an offensive rebound into the basket to give the Cats a 58-53 advantage with 7:27 left in the game.

Though Kentucky never pulled away, Texas A&M didn’t get within one possession for the final three and a half minutes of the game.

There was a delay of several minutes early in the second half after Texas A&M’s Julius Marble shoved Tshiebwe to the floor. Marble was immediately hit with a personal foul and a technical foul, then — with referee Doug Shows on the video review — it was observed that Tshiebwe had elbowed Marble in the face while the two were running down the court, which resulted in a flagrant foul on Tshiebwe. That call also resulted in the third personal foul on Tshiebwe with 17:00 still remaining in the game.

Four days after recording 37 points and 24 rebounds in a victory over Georgia, the Kentucky star tallied seven points and 17 rebounds in 29 minutes against the Aggies.

UK point guard Sahvir Wheeler once again played relatively limited minutes Saturday, coming off the bench for the second consecutive game after missing the victory over Tennessee last weekend with a back injury. Wheeler entered the game for the first time with 11:01 left in the first half and entered for the first time in the second half with 10:53 left in the game. He played less than one minute during that second-half stint before Calipari subbed him out, and the senior point guard did not return to the court after that.

Wheeler, a preseason all-SEC selection, finished with zero points and two assists in eight minutes of play.

Kentucky improved to 13-6 on the season and 4-3 in the Southeastern Conference. The Cats also ended Texas A&M’s seven-game winning streak. The Aggies (13-6, 5-1 SEC) had been one of only two SEC teams that remained undefeated in the league (No. 4-ranked Alabama is the other).

UK will be back on the road Tuesday night for a game at Vanderbilt, which defeated Georgia in Athens on Saturday afternoon to improve to 10-9 on the season and 3-3 in the SEC.

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