Turner, A&M scorch defending champions Kentucky
Published: Sunday, January 13, 2013
Updated: Sunday, January 13, 2013 22:01
Texas A&M, competing in its first conference road matchup of the season, downed the defending national champion Kentucky Wildcats 83-71 Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena.
Senior guard Elston Turner scored a career-high 40 points during the marquee victory, helping A&M improve to 12-3 overall and a perfect 2-0 in SEC play. The Aggies edged former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas at home 69-51 this past Wednesday.
“I was just going with the flow,” Turner said. “I didn’t really pay attention to who was guarding me or what they were trying to do. I was just really trying to get my team going – we had to have confidence that we could beat this (Kentucky).”
The six-foot-five senior Turner was just a single point shy of his personal best of 26 points entering halftime. Turner finished the matchup 14-for-19 and 6-for-10 from beyond the arc, adding four assists and six rebounds as well.
The second-year transfer from the University of Washington further noted the game as his “best performance” to date, surpassing high school and even Sweet Sixteen memories with the Huskies.
Fellow teammate and junior guard Fabyon Harris knocked down 14 points of his own, finishing a distant second to Turner, the Aggies’ leading scorer for the season.
“I just sat back and watched the show,” Harris joked following the victory. “I’m used to seeing Elston do that in practice and he just showed that he can do that on the big stage in the win tonight.”
Despite Turner stealing the spotlight, Harris made his presence felt with a mere 4:04 to play and the matchup deadlocked at 63, sinking a jumper that would lead to an 11-0 run for A&M to end the game.
With the victory, Aggie head coach Billy Kennedy showed signs of reviving a downed A&M program following a disappointing 14-18 (4-14 Big 12) conclusion to A&M’s final run in the Big 12 last year.
Last season broke a string of six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances under former coaches Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon, but Kennedy has geared A&M for a return to prominence in his university’s new conference.
For Kentucky head coach John Calipari, however, Texas A&M’s 12-point win marks his only conference home loss and third largest margin of defeat since his tenure began in 2009.
Kennedy said Kentucky’s youth went to A&M’s advantage.
“This is a special place, it’s hard to win here,” Kennedy said. “I’m really proud of the fight that our team showed today. (Turner) got a lot of opportunities to score and Kentucky’s young and you were able to see that. Fortunately, we took advantage of it.”
Texas A&M held the Wildcats’ superstar freshman forward Nerlens Noel to just 15 points and 11 rebounds for the game. Freshman Archie Goodwin led Kentucky in scoring, recording 17 points for the day.
The Aggies will host No. 11 Florida (12-2, 2-0) this Thursday at Reed Arena, hoping to notch a league-best 3-0 in SEC conference play.