Hop's Kentucky Game Analysis

The Aggie basketball team kept it close against Kentucky at Rupp Arena, but in the second half the Wildcats' talent and length took control in a 68-51 game. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a deeper look at the action and where the team stands after the road loss.

In my mind, this was a low risk, high reward game on the schedule. When we were all looking at the schedule and projecting wins and losses, this was a loss. Under Calipari, Kentucky is 79-2 at Rupp Arena and Elston Turner has one of those losses. But the odds of an A&M upset in Lexington was slim.

However, low and behold with about 13-14 minutes to play the Aggies were within four points and this game was taking on the script of Tennessee. There was a difference though. By the midway point in the second half, the Aggies were without the services of Fabyon Harris (obviously he broke a team rule or was late to a meeting) with Jordan Green in foul trouble and Jamal Jones battling cramps and on the bench for most of the second half.

Thus, with walk-on Blake McDonald running the point and Dylan Johns pressed into duty, the dam finally broke and the more talented Kentucky squad took control in the final 10 minutes. Reality set in.

But overall, I thought the team played hard. I thought the team had a good game plan on defense collapsing on the post and forcing Kentucky into perimeter shots. The plan was executed pretty well for the most part. On offense, I thought the team moved the ball well in the half-court sets and in most cases created a decent shot. The guys were not scared to be aggressive and take the ball to the hole against bigger, longer defenders. In the past against more talented lineups, A&M would get scared and dribble around the perimeter for 30 seconds and then the last person with the ball would shoot a prayer.

Of course, some of those shots were rejected and the result wasn't always a bucket, but that's just reality playing a bunch of future first round draft picks. The fact that the players were not intimidated and was persistent in executing the coaches' game plan was encouraging. Fitzgerald continues to get better and evolve as a high D-1 player. His jump stop move into the teeth of the Kentucky post defense that scored the bucket and drew the foul was a big boy move.

Jamal Jones, Alex Caruso, and even Shawn Smith had some really strong moves to the basket and I liked their confidence going up against better, longer athletes. Dylan Johns was forced into action and he had a very nice blocked shot near the basket and he grabbed a board, but otherwise was not a factor on offense at all. I was really disappointed in the play of Antwan Space. I've expected more from him than a couple of wild outside shots and virtually no impact in the defensive paint. I'm also wondering what the staff was envisioning when they offered an undersized 6-foot-7 post in Tavario Miller. I think he's a scrappy kid with energy, but I'm having a hard time figuring out the role for a short post with few skills outside the paint.

Cutting to the chase, if A&M had ANY chance of stealing another game in Rupp, they were needing a big perimeter scoring performance from Jones...something on the order of 5-of-6 from beyond the arc and 20+ points scored. But he ended up shooting 3-of-12 from the field scoring 8 points in only 21 minutes of action.

The Ags are still on pace to finish 10-8 in SEC play which has been my goal for this team. But what is starting to concern me is that for the third straight season, the team is developing a depth issue. This staff must keep the players on the court, and with Fabyon Harris benched for violating a team rule, once again the Aggies are so short-handed at point guard that walk-on Blake McDonald is logging significant minutes...again.

In three seasons, the staff has lost two highly-touted point guards, and a third is currently in the doghouse. Yeah, Kennedy inherited Jamal Branch and his transfer can't be necessarily blamed on the staff, but Reese and Harris are Kennedy's players and it's disappointing that three years into his tenure the Aggies still don't have a stable roster.

If A&M hopes to be a consistent winner, they need 13 scholarship players on roster. They've been averaging about 9-10. I think A&M had a good game plan and executed it as well as can be expected, but when you have only 5-6 productive high D-1 players, that execution gets tougher and tougher as the season wears on.

The good news from tonight is that Fitzgerald keeps improving and the team played hard and with a plan. The bad news is that to be successful against upper division teams like Kentucky, you need 8-9 productive players. A&M had about six on Tuesday.

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