Texas A&M-Kentucky Preview
Kentucky's Andrew Harrison knew extra practice time would eventually translate into positive game results.
The payoff came over the weekend and the freshman point guard looks to keep the momentum going Tuesday night when the 14th-ranked Wildcats face Texas A&M - the only SEC team to win at Rupp Arena since John Calipari took over at Kentucky.
Harrison scored a career-high 26 points in a 74-66 victory over Tennessee on Saturday, including 16 in the second half to help the Wildcats (13-4, 3-1 SEC) put the Volunteers away. He was 10 of 10 from the foul line and Kentucky made 23 of 24 free throws.
But more notable for Harrison was how he got to the line against Tennessee's physical lineup.
Drawing contact is a sign of Harrison's increased confidence and comfort with his role as Kentucky's floor leader.
''I know that I'm not playing as well as I can, and that's what I'm working on,'' Harrison said. ''That just comes from hard work and being in the gym. I just want to play well for my team.''
What's helping is Harrison's improved patience watching the game develop before making his move.
At times the 6-foot-6 Harrison has appeared to try too hard to live up to billing as the nation's top recruit at his position - and meeting Calipari's expectations for his point guards. Harrison showed flashes of his ability early but his play was inconsistent, leading to social-media criticism of his ability.
And while Harrison's development continues, he has shown progress in the last five games. Despite scoring just seven points in last Tuesday's overtime loss at Arkansas, he had six assists and forced the extra session by making a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left in regulation.
He also scored 18 points against rival Louisville on Dec. 28.
Harrison enters Tuesday's game against Texas A&M (12-5, 3-1) as Kentucky's fourth-leading scorer at 11.5 points per contest, hitting nearly 39 percent from 3-point range and averaging 3.5 assists.
The Aggies handed the Wildcats a 73-71 loss in Lexington last Jan. 12, Calipari's only defeat in 35 home games against SEC opponents. Kentucky, which has won 19 consecutive home games since then, had no answer for stopping Elston Turner. Then a senior, Turned finished with 40 points on 14-of-19 shooting to become the third visiting player to hit the 40-point mark at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky needed overtime to win the rematch at College Station three weeks later.
Texas A&M started SEC play with three straight wins before falling to Mississippi State 81-72 in overtime Saturday. The Aggies allowed the Bulldogs to shoot an opponent season-high 52.7 percent after yielding an average of 55.5 points on 39.1 percent shooting in the previous four games.
"We didn't get back on defense a few times and they got some easy layups," coach Billy Kennedy said. "We got frustrated and got stagnate."
Despite the subpar defensive effort, leading scorer Jamal Jones had another impressive showing. The junior guard, Texas A&M's only player to average in double figures in scoring at 12.3, had a career-best 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting. He is averaging 23.0 points and has hit 10 of 20 3-pointers in the last three games.