After back-to-back victories over Top 15 opponents, are the No. 10 Kentucky Wildcats (9-1, 2-0 SEC) ready for their toughest test yet?
On Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET, Kentucky meet No. 8 Texas A&M (10-0, 1-0 SEC) on the Aggies’ turf in a Top 10 SEC showdown.
The ‘Cats arrive in College Station with momentum, as well as hardware. A late-December win over then-No. 10 Arkansas and an early-January overtime victory over then-No. 12 Mississippi State earned Kentucky the first-ever Team of the Week honor from the US Basketball Writers Association.
Additionally, Rhyne Howard was named SEC Player of the Week and Naismith Trophy National Player of the Week, adding to her ever-expanding trophy case.
The junior phenom tallied a double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds against Arkansas before turning in an even better effort against Mississippi State — 33 points and 10 rebounds, with 25 of her points coming in the fourth quarter and overtime.
New head coach Kyra Elzy doesn’t just have Howard, though. She has a whole squad. Team defense held the high-scoring Hogs in check, but offensive contributions from up and down the lineup powered the Wildcats past the Bulldogs. To best the Aggies, Elzy will need another tip-top team-wide performance on both ends of the floor.
Texas A&M may lack the flash of Kentucky, but head coach Gary Blair’s undefeated Aggies have quietly established themselves as one of the nation’s best teams.
On Sunday, A&M took care of business against the Florida Gators, 92-67. The Aggies’ own star, N’dea Jones, recorded her sixth double-double of the season with 17 points and 18 rebounds. Overall, the junior forward is averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Senior guard Aaliyah Wilson also has been a steady force for the Aggies. Averaging a team-best 13.5 points per game, she had a game-high 17 points in Texas A&M’s best win of the season — a hard-fought triumph over intrastate rival Texas.
The Texas win could be a template for A&M as they prepare to face Kentucky and Howard. Against the Longhorns, the Aggies successfully slowed hyped, high-profile talent Charli Collier to get the gritty victory.
No. 8 Texas A&M Aggies (10-0, 1-0 SEC) vs. No. 10 Kentucky Wildcats (9-1, 2-0 SEC)
When: Thursday, Jan. 7, at 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Reed Arena in College Station, TX
How to watch: SEC Network
What to watch for: The analytically-minded maxim states, “Three is greater than two.” As such, the Wildcats seem to have a significant edge in Thursday night’s contest. In their big back-to-back wins over Arkansas and Mississippi State, Kentucky used the 3-ball to great effect, hitting 50 percent from long range in both games. Against Mississippi State, Kentucky drained a season-high 14 triples. Unsurprisingly, Rhyne Howard is Kentucky’s most prolific 3-point markswoman, making 41 percent of her 56 attempts from 3-point range. While the Wildcats have taken a total of 229 attempts from deep, the Aggies have launched only 133. It is A&M, however, who is converting their shots from behind the arc at a solid 41.4 percent, led by Destiny Pitts’ 51.2-percent mark.