Texas A&M-Kentucky Preview

LEXINGTON, Ky. — No. 8 Kentucky (11-2, 1-0 SEC) begins the home portion of its Southeastern Conference schedule when they host Texas A&M (8-4, 0-1) at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Rupp Arena.

The Wildcats will enter the game after a sterling 99-76 rout of Ole Miss Thursday in Oxford. It was a game that saw a long-awaited component of Kentucky’s offense come to light when 6-10 freshman forward Erdice “Bam” Adebayo erupted for a career-best 25 points.

“If you don’t have a post presence, your team is a fraud,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said afterwards. “There is going to be a game when you miss shots and you’re going to lose. When you’re trying to win six in a row at the end of the year and you don’t have a post player, I’m sorry, it’s not going to happen.”

Through the first seven games, Adebayo attempted an average of six shots per game, scoring 11 points per outing. Over the last six games, his field goal attempts are up to 11 and his scoring average has increased to 16.

The increases are not by accident.

“In practice, we have segments where the ball’s gotta touch Bam’s hands first before anybody shoots the ball,” sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe said. “And if he continues to play like this, we got not choice but to give him the ball. He had a great game today and that’s big for us going down low. We need to keep his confidence up.”

“If you come to our practice, we’re working every day and it’s a process,” Calipari said. “We’re trying to get them to do what we’re working on in games, but they revert back to what they know and what they’ve been doing their whole lives and he does occasionally.”

Adebayo’s 25 points against Ole Miss eclipsed his previous season high by seven points. His 19 shots made his collegiate debut of one field goal attempt against Stephen F. Austin laughable.

“It was a huge difference,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “Bam is a big, strong kid who’s got good touch around the basket and we were allowing him to get too good low-post position. And obviously, superior players are going to make plays if you allow them to get too close.”

Texas A&M will counter with its own brute force inside. Sophomore Tyler Davis, a 6-10, 270-pound center, leads the Aggies in scoring at 14.3 points and rebounding at 7.8. He is shooting better than 60 percent.

After Davis, A&M has three more double-figures scorers. Sophomore forward DJ Hogg scores 13.3, sophomore guard Admon Gilder, 12.5; and freshman forward Robert Williams, 10.5.

Likewise, Kentucky has four players in double figures. Freshman guard Malik Monk, who scored 34 points against Ole Miss, is tops at 22.4. Freshman guard De’Aaron Fox averages 15.6, Briscoe, 15.5; and Adebayo 13.5 to go with a team-best 7.7 rebounds.

The meeting matches two of the most competitive rivals in the SEC in recent years as four of the last five games have gone into overtime, including a double-overtime win by Kentucky in 2015. The last meeting, in the SEC Tournament championship game last March, was won by UK, 82-77.

This season could follow suit. A&M has lost four times already, but all three nonconference setbacks were to ranked teams — 65-63 to No. 22 Southern California, 74-67 to No. 2 UCLA and 67-63 to No. 18 Arizona. Texas A&M was upset by Tennessee in its SEC opener last Thursday.

Kentucky’s two losses were also to ranked teams — 97-92 to No. 2 UCLA and 73-70 at No. 6 Louisville.