Everybody knew Nerlens Noel would have an instant impact once he arrived on the University of Kentucky campus.
It’s true, when Noel plays well, UK wins. When he doesn’t, UK struggles.
On Saturday, the Wildcats defeated Texas A&M 72-68 in overtime. Noel scored 19 points, hauled in 14 rebounds, and swatted two shots.
Without Noel’s performance, UK would’ve lost to the Aggies for a second time this season.
Noel needs to touch the ball on every possession, unless it’s a fast break. If Noel is double-teamed, he can kick it outside.
That’s what Calipari’s dribble-drive offense is all about. Look inside first, then bounce the ball back out if nothing is there.
Against Texas A&M, guard Julius Mays stepped up in the back-court and scored 19 points. He drilled 4-6 from three-point land.
And it goes back to Noel. The Wildcats give the ball to Noel, if he’s trapped; he kicks it outside to one of the guards or Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer scored 10 points against the Aggies.
On defense, UK did a fantastic job of guarding Elston Turner in the first half. In the Cats first meeting with the Aggies, Turner dropped a career high 40 points.
Turner scored 21 against Kentucky in its second match-up. He only scored six points in the first half. At the end of the game, Turner came alive. His jumper with three seconds left sent the game into overtime.
In OT, UK limited Turner touches. He made a three-pointer in overtime, but didn’t attempt anymore shots after that.
While a win is a win, the Wildcats still have some kinks that they need to solve.
UK blew a 13 point first-half lead. They have to learn how to play forty-minutes. Until then, the Cats will lose some games.
In the first half, Texas A&M only shot 24.7 percent. The Aggies shot 57.7 percent in the second half. That’s called playing lazy second half defense and not caring.
Turnovers were an issue as Kentucky lost the ball 19 times. Texas A&M only turned it over 10 times. Quite frankly, UK got lucky. Most of the time you don’t win when you have almost double the amount of turnovers as your opponent.
Then there’s the free-throw shooting dilemma. If you want to win close games, you’ll make your free-throws. Kentucky hit 8-10 from the line in overtime. Prior to overtime, UK shot 15-24. That’s a concern that UK shot so poorly from the line in regulation.
Texas A&M shot 18-19 from the foul line. When you look at the stat sheet, it’s amazing how Kentucky won this game.
So why did UK win?
Nerlens Noel, that’s why UK beat Texas A&M. If the Cats make a deep tournament run, then it’s because Mr. Flat Top got the ball as many times as he could.