LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky coach John Calipari had plenty of praise for a Wildcats performance that was consistent and thorough on both ends.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats still have a way to go, but their effort against Texas A&M on Tuesday night offered encouragement for the coach and his young roster.
Malik Monk scored 26 points, fellow freshman De’Aaron Fox had 15 and Kentucky rode an early 15-0 run to cruise past Texas A&M 100-58.
Playing at home for the first time in nearly a month, the Wildcats (12-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) quickly answered the Aggies’ game-opening 3-pointer with that surge over 2:39 to take control. Kentucky continued pouring it on for its most lopsided victory in a recently tight series with overtime deciding four of the last five.
“We came out with energy and just kept that going through the rest of the game,” said Monk, who continued his high-scoring ways by making 8 of 11 shots, including five 3-pointers, to pace Kentucky. “So, I think we did pretty good.”
The Wildcats shot 52 percent and broke the century mark for the second time in four games and fifth time this season. That’s the best season total under Calipari and the highest since posting seven in 1995-96.
They also forced the Aggies into a season-high 25 turnovers — the second-most Kentucky has created this season — and turned them into 35 points. In fact, the only statistic Kentucky didn’t completely dominate was rebounds (30-28) because they created chances elsewhere.
Calipari could only smile about those results.
“This is starting to look like a team I coach,” Calipari said. “(Texas A&M) shot 45 percent, but again, this was a game where everything was tough for them. I thought we did some good stuff today.”
Tyler Davis and Admon Gilder each had 13 points for Texas A&M (8-5, 0-2), which trailed by as many as 47 points in the final minutes.
THE BIG PICTURE
Texas A&M: Any hope the Aggies had of staying with the Wildcats was quashed during Kentucky’s surge. Their 15 first-half turnovers were just one shy of their total in the loss to Tennessee. One bright spot was their 45 percent shooting, which was better than against the Volunteers but didn’t matter against a Kentucky squad that took them out quickly and thoroughly.
“I thought we would play much better,” coach Billy Kennedy said. “There was no surprise. Kentucky, they are who they are. You get what you get.”
Kentucky: The Wildcats controlled the pace on both ends with their defense particularly impressive. Besides holding the Aggies to 38 percent first-half shooting, they forced 15 turnovers and converted them into 21 points by the break. There was a lot to like about their offense, as they again started hot behind that 15-0 run that ended with eight straight points by Monk. He made consecutive 3s followed by a thunderous one-handed dunk after a steal by Fox. Isaiah Briscoe had 13 points and seven assists and Bam Adebayo added 10 points.
If Kentucky is this dominant against Arkansas, the Wildcats could be back in the Top Five.
Kentucky made its own luck during the run by scoring six straight baskets off turnovers, highlighted by three 3s and three dunks. It eventually became a 28-5 run for a 28-8 lead with 7:41 left in the first half, but most of the damage was done in that one segment.
“It was extremely fun,” Fox said. “We came out and talked about pressuring the ball, so that’s what we did.”
Texas A&M: Visits South Carolina in a nationally televised game on Saturday. The Aggies have won three of five over the Gamecocks since joining the SEC but lost 81-78 last season.
Kentucky: Seeks fourth straight series win over Arkansas when it hosts the Razorbacks on Saturday night.
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