Men's Basketball
Big Blue Preview: Kentucky at Texas A&M

Big Blue Preview: Kentucky at Texas A&M

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has gotten a spark off the bench all season long by subbing in guards Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard. The freshmen have boosted the team with their ability to shoot, pass and defend.

It’s no accident that Dillingham and Sheppard have great chemistry. The two have become very close in a short amount of time, according to Sheppard.

“Me and Rob have a really good relationship. We’re roommates in the lodge. We’ve always been close, ever since we got on campus. Our chemistry on the court is just from playing together. In practice, we’re always shooting together.”

That chemistry has led to big results for both players, and for the team. Dillingham is second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.4 points per game and second in assists with 57. Sheppard is fifth on the team in scoring (11.9 points per contest) and leads the team in assists with 58.

Sheppard admits to being close to Dillingham, but he also believes that the chemistry extends to everyone on the team.

“It’s not just me and Rob, that’s the thing,” Sheppard said. “Every single person here is really, really close with each other. It doesn’t matter who it is, everyone is really, really close and I think that’s what makes this team so special.”

The Cats will take their 12-2 record, and their chemistry, on the road for the second consecutive Saturday when UK faces Texas A&M in College Station (2 p.m. ET, ESPN). Sheppard and the Cats hope that the experience they had last week at Florida will pay dividends this weekend.

“It was a lot of fun. It was our first real road game,” Sheppard said. “The whole game, they were booing, doing the Gator chomp. It was good for us to go through that and be able to stick together as a team and just keep fighting and playing.”

As for the Aggies, Sheppard knows they are better than their record indicates.

“Texas A&M is a really, really good team. They’re really physical,” Sheppard said. “Coach Williams does a really good job with the team. They’re 0-2 right now but I don’t think that means anything at all, going into their place. We’re expecting a battle.”

The Cats are hoping that their chemistry, and their experience of playing in front of a hostile crowd, will benefit them as they visit Texas A&M on Saturday.

Last Time Out: Missouri Recap

Kentucky freshman Rob Dillingham did not play a bunch of minutes in Tuesday’s game against Missouri, but he made the most of his time in the game.

Dillingham scored a season-high 23 points in just 19 minutes of action as the sixth-ranked Wildcats topped the Tigers 90-77 at Rupp Arena. The freshman from Hickory, North Carolina, hit 6 of 7 from the floor, including all three of his 3-point attempts, and 8 of 10 from the line on his way to the 23 points.

Kentucky (12-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) got a double-double from Tre Mitchell, who scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. D.J. Wagner had 16 points, Antonio Reeves scored 14 and Aaron Bradshaw added 10 for the Cats.

UK head coach John Calipari is glad to have Dillingham on his team, although he continues to look for more.

“The whole thing that I said to him after the game was, I love coaching you,” Calipari said. “You can really play and I love coaching guys who can really play. He can really play but we had to get him to make easier plays. The other things he has to continue to work on – your body language. But when you’re the young team that we are, body language is that next thing. He knows I love him. I love coaching him. He’s as good as it gets to go get baskets and get fouled.”

Both teams came out hot, with each hitting four of their first five shots from the field. Kentucky would make six of its first seven shots to take an early 14-12 advantage. And by the time the Cats made their seventh field goal on just nine attempts, UK led 22-14.

Kentucky would go up by 14 points, 35-21, after five consecutive points from Dillingham. But Missouri responded by scoring the next seven, prompting a timeout from the Kentucky bench. The run would continue as the Tigers got within four before a Bradshaw basket stopped a 10-0 run.

From there, the Cats would be able to lead by as many as seven points, on three occasions, before settling for a 47-42 halftime lead. Wagner and Dillingham each had 11 points in the first half to lead the Cats. Dillingham’s 11 came in his first four minutes of action.

Unlike the first half, the teams were unable to find the range early in the second half, with each team missing its first three shots from the field. After Missouri hit a pair of free throws, UK got on the board with a Justin Edwards layup.

Kentucky would stretch the lead to as many as 15 in the second half before settling for the 13-point win.

John Calipari Approaching Win No. 400 as UK’s Head Coach

Kentucky head coach John Calipari has tallied a 399-115 all-time record as the Wildcats’ coach. He is already the second winningest coach in program history, trailing only legendary Adolph Rupp who was 876-190 as UK’s coach.

• With a win against Texas A&M on Saturday (515), Calipari will be the third-fastest active head coach to 400 wins at a program. Bill Self amassed 400 wins in 484 games at Kansas and Mark Few tallied 400 wins in 499 outings at Gonzaga.
• Among active head coaches, Calipari leads:

1. With 110 victories at the Associated Press No. 1 team
2. Six wins against AP No. 1 ranked teams
3. Most NCAA Tournament wins (57)
4. Most Sweet 16 apperances (15)
5. Most 20-win seasons (27)
6. Most 30-win seasons (10)
7. Most wins in overtime (33-17 record)

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