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Nerlens Noel’s double-double helps Kentucky outlast Texas A&M in overtime

Feb 2, 2013, 8:55 PM EDT

Nerlens Noel AP

Blowing a nine-point halftime lead, letting a team creep back and force overtime, turning the ball over 18 times. It likely wasn’t exactly what Kentucky coach John Calipari wanted from his team Saturday against Texas A&M, but the Wildcats fought to stay in control and closed the door in the extra period, winning, 72-68, at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.

Freshman Nerlens Noel, so important down the stretch in Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss earlier in the week, was key against Saturday evening, tallying a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds. Guard Julius Mays also had 19 points, including 4-of-6 shooting from three-point range.

On the final possession of regulation, Kentucky tried to double-team guard Elston Turner on the perimeter, but he was able to dribble through and hit a pull up from the right elbow that kissed off the front of the rim, popped in the air, and fell through.

Texas A&M never led, though they were able to tie the game three times, including Turner’s jumper to end regulation. That run erased a nine-point Kentucky lead at halftime.

In overtime, Kentucky made a more concerted effort to keep the ball out of Turner’s hands with more double teams. The result was a stagnant A&M offense, until Turner was able to hit a three with 2:07 to play to pull the Aggies within three, 69-66.

Kentucky, though, tightened up on defense on Texas A&M’s last possession to secure the victory. Turner was forced into a long three-pointer to tie the game, which rattled out and Kentucky came down with the rebound.

After an up-and-down non-conference season, Kentucky now moves to 6-2 in the SEC and 15-6 overall. The win likely pulls the Wildcats into a tie for second in the conference with Ole Miss, who was losing by double-digits late in the second half to Florida at the time of publication.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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