COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Kentucky survived its first trip to Texas A&M in program history and its first visit to overtime in nearly two years by doing the one thing the Wildcats didn't do well for most of the night: making free throws.
After missing nine of their first 22 shots at the so-called "charity stripe" on Saturday, Kentucky hit 10 of 12 in the closing moments of the second half and overtime to hang on for a 72-68 win over the Aggies at Reed Arena.
"Free-throw shooting is a key, especially late in the game," Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer said. "Coach Cal has been telling us, not only do we need to get fouled, but we've got to make free throws to seal out games.
"That was really a big win for us down the stretch. It wasn't pretty, but we can learn from this. A win is a win… A win on the road is a good accomplishment."
Senior guard Julius Mays scored five of his 19 points in overtime, all at the foul line, to help the Wildcats clinch the victory. Nerlens Noel also had a season-high 19 points for Kentucky (15-6, 6-2 SEC) to go along with 14 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots. Wiltjer added 10 points for UK.
Kentucky had only one field goal over the final 8:46, but the Aggies were never able to seize a lead during the game. It was tied on three occasions at 9-9, 13-13 and 62-62 on Elston Turner's jumper with :01.7 remaining in regulation.
Texas A&M (13-8, 3-5 SEC) had beaten the Wildcats 83-71 on Jan. 12 at Rupp Arena on a night when Turner lit UK up for a career-high 40 points. The senior guard tossed in a team-high 21 this time, but was 7-for-23 from the field and 1-for-7 from beyond the arc. His final miss from long range would have tied the game with one second left in overtime, but hit the front of the rim and into the hands of UK's Mays.
"We made four or five plays in a row to give them a chance to beat us," said UK coach John Calipari, whose team committed six turnovers in the final 1:51 of regulation. "… That being said, in overtime we gutted it out."
"I'm proud of the fight our guys had against a Kentucky team that played well," Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. "Everything we did, they countered. (Kentucky) going 7-for-15 from the 3-point line was big because our game plan was to force them to shoot 3s and hope they missed."
Kentucky shot 48 percent from the field while holding the Aggies to 39 percent. The Wildcats also held a 35-32 rebounding advantage to help overcome 19 turnovers.
Texas A&M also got 14 points, six rebounds and two steals from Fabyon Harris and 12 points and 11 rebounds from Ray Turner.
• Kentucky now leads the all-time series with Texas A&M 3-2. The Wildcats are 7-4 now when playing games in the Lone Star State.
• The Wildcats played their first overtime game in almost two years. The last was a 77-76 loss at Arkansas on February 2, 2011. UK is 52-43 all-time in overtime games.
• Ryan Harrow, Mays and Noel each played 41 out of 45 minutes.
• Noel posted his third career double-double. The freshman center has grabbed six or more rebounds in every game this season.
• Kentucky returns to action Tuesday at Rupp Arena against South Carolina. Tipoff is slated for 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
Kentucky survives OT at A&M
AllWildcats Top Stories
RECAP: No. 5 Kentucky 88, Miss. State 81Wenyen Gabriel's finest overall game as a Wildcat helped keep No. 5 Kentucky undefeated in SEC play on Tuesday at Mississippi State.
AllWildcatsYesterday at 3:57 PM
Howland: Briscoe 'The Heart and Soul' of UKKentucky may have a better scorer. (Malik Monk)
AllWildcatsMonday at 2:39 PM
RECAP: No. 6 KENTUCKY 92, AUBURN 72LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Bruce Pearl got a phone call from Auburn basketball legend Charles Barkley prior to the Tigers' matchup on Saturday against No. 6 Kentucky.
AllWildcatsSaturday at 3:58 PM
Breakdown: Kentucky Commit Lynn BowdenThe commitment of Lynn Bowden is a big addition to Kentucky's 2017 recruiting class. What are the Wildcats getting with Bowden?
Scout FootballSaturday at 5:51 AM
You Can Still Enter Maui MadnessPick a winning playoff Fantasy team for just $25 and win a trip for four to Hawaii!