By LARRY VAUGHT
It was a game that’s hard to explain.
Kentucky fell behind 10-0 to Texas A&M — a team most expect to be near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference — before going on a dominating run to take a 35-21 lead and 48-34 halftime lead.
But in the second half, the Cats reverted or lost their mojo again or something. Kentucky led just 68-66 with 6:16 to play before finally winning 85-74 with a performance that again left John Calipari perplexed.
“We are still so inexperienced,” the UK coach said. “They don’t understand whatever the game plan is, one guy can’t choose just to do what he wants. We got some guys who did not play as well as they needed to play. We got some guys who just got outworked. We are breaking down execution and it is driving me crazy. This has to be a team playing together.”
After getting outrebounded in Saturday’s loss at Alabama, UK got beat again on the boards 29-28. The Cats got 42 points in the paint, but gave up 32.
Tyler Herro led UK with 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting and had five rebounds and one assist. He also had four turnovers.
“Tyler did a great job fighting in the second half. That’s what got him in the lane,” Calipari said.
Guard Ashton Hagans went 10-for-11 at the foul line and finished with 18 points, five steals and four assists.
“People act like he can’t shoot but he can,” Calipari said. “He also anticipates (on defense) and gets his hands on balls. If he sees an opportunity to go after a ball, he does.”
Immanuel Quickley came off the bench to contribute 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting, three steals and two assists. Kentucky got 22 points off 19 A&M turnovers.
“Immanuel is playing within who he is and playing great,” Calipari said.
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said UK’s strength gave the Aggies trouble.
“Their physicality gave us some problems and they got to the foul line too many times,” Kennedy said. “They are so balanced and have so many guys that can score. Quickley coming off the bench is a threat. Herro is capable in stretches of taking over the game offensively. We had a hard time guarding him.”
He said Hagans was the best defensive guard his team has faced. “But he also did a great job running their team and knowing when to attack,” Kennedy said.
He also said Kentucky didn’t panic when the lead got down to two points.
“They just kept playing and executing,” he said.
Calipari said the team might have split apart after wins over North Carolina and Louisville when they came together “out of fear” because they thought they might lose.
“If they split, that’s my fault,” Calipari said. “We just have to stay with it.”