Kentucky Basketball: Texas A&M Showdown Preview

Kentucky Basketball: The Cats open their home slate of SEC Conference games against what is arguably the one team that has played them best the last three years, Texas A&M

Dec 29, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies center Tyler Davis (34) controls the ball as Tennessee Volunteers forward Lew Evans (21) defends during the first half at Reed Arena. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last few seasons, arguably no team in the SEC Conference has been a bigger thorn in the side of Kentucky basketball hopes than Texas A&M. Just think of it as the continuing curse of Billy Gillispie – like Bear Bryant, only backwards. Or something like that.

GAME TRACKER

The Cats enjoy a 6-3 record all-time against the Aggies, but the team from College Station has been especially game in recent meetings, with four of the last five games going into overtime, including the last three consecutive.

The Cats took the last one, an 82-77 thriller to win the SEC Tournament in Nashville last season. Tonight the rivalry renews again in Rupp Arena, the opening home conference game of the season for UK, and first in front of a home crowd in nearly a month.

Texas A&M, like Kentucky, lost several starters from that tournament team, but they bring back their big man in the middle, 6-10 center Tyler Davis, an SEC All-Freshman selection last season. Davis powers the Aggies, 8-4 overall, with 14.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, including 3.9 offensive boards per game, which leads the SEC.

“Obviously he has size,” said UK assistant coach Tony Barbee. “It’s a huge factor, but he plays one or two moments ahead in the game. He’s always angling for position in the post. He’s always angling before a shot is taken to get offensive rebound position. It’s what makes him so effective down there. He’s very similar to Bam in that way. Bam thinks the game the same way. He’s always a step or two ahead of his opponent. That’s what the better players do. They see the game ahead and a little faster paced then other guys do.”

The Cats have put a renewed focus on rebounding in preparation for what Kentucky coaches expect to be another dog fight against Texas A&M. And not just out of Kentucky’s bigs either, but the guards are expected to crash the boards tonight against the Aggies.

“Our guards are so big, so long, so athletic that they’ve got to use that to their advantage to go rebound,” Barbee said. “We’ve been focusing on Malik Monk in that area. He should be a guy that goes and gets five, six, seven rebounds a game – because he can. And he has the ability to.”

Tip-off is scheduled tonight for 9 PM EST; ESPN and Watch ESPN will broadcast the game.

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