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February 3, 2013COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Sometimes there was a defender right in Elston Turner's face. Sometimes he had to shoot from well behind the three-point line, or on the run from a tough angle.
In short, the shots that the Texas A&M guard got against Kentucky Saturday at Reed Arena looked a lot like the ones he took at Rupp Arena three weeks before.
Fewer of these went in.
"They weren't just playing great defense on me," Turner said after the Wildcats' 72-68 overtime win against the Aggies. "I was still getting good looks, I just wasn't able to hit shots."
The biggest difference between Turner's 21-point effort on Saturday and his 40-point game in last month's win against the Wildcats might have been that he didn't establish an early rhythm.
Turner was 7-for-23 in the game, but just 2-for-10 in the first half. He didn't score until the 6:30 mark of the first half. He was 0-for-5 from three-point range in the first half and finished 1-for-7 from outside the arc.
That was a far cry from last month's 83-71 A&M win at Rupp Arena, in which Turner scored 25 of his 40 points in the first half and shot 10-of-13 before halftime.
"I feel like we did well," said Kentucky guard Julius Mays, who was among the Cats to guard Turner. "He got loose a few times and hit some big shots, but as far as (the) all-around game, I think we did well. I think he shot a lot of shots to get his points."
Turner did score some clutch points, including an off-balance shot to force overtime, a long two-pointer that bounced in after he split a late-arriving double team. He missed a three-pointer in the extra session that could have forced a second OT.
"I think it was kind of like, OK, I hit that one (in regulation) and got the lucky bounce and then (in overtime) I didn't get the lucky one," Turner said. "It's luck sometimes. That's how it goes."
The Cats didn't want to leave anything to chance in defending Turner. Alex Poythress, who'd started on Turner at Rupp Arena - a strategy UK coach John Calipari admitted then was "a mistake" - saw very little time guarding him.
Archie Goodwin drew the assignment to start but fought foul trouble most of the game and later lost Turner on some second-half possessions.
"Wherever Archie sees Turner, leave," Calipari said. "If it's a pickup game, go home. Don't go near the guy."
Still, Turner said Kentucky is a better team than it was three weeks ago, and though he liked the looks he got, he credited UK's defense for making strides since his 40-point outburst.
"They paid more attention," Turner said. "They made me catch it farther back instead of just coming off screens cleanly. Towards the end of the game, they started double-teaming me when I caught it with 10 or less seconds left."
Willie Cauley-Stein saw the court Saturday for the first time since Jan. 15, but he only caught a glimpse.
The 7-foot Kentucky freshman missed four games after having a knee procedure for an old injury. He returned against the Aggies, but played only four minutes, all in the first half.
Cauley-Stein went scoreless and had one rebound. He didn't attempt a field goal and missed his two free-throw attempts.
"I just wanted him to get out there and get his wheels underneath him, and I thought he did fine," Calipari said. "Then the second half, the way the game went, I just, like, 'Look, I'm not going to do this to you. You've been out for two weeks.' But he's fine."
In last Tuesday's win at Ole Miss, Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel dominated with only one field-goal attempt (he missed it). Noel blocked a school-record 12 shots that night in Oxford to lead UK to a win.
On Saturday, Noel wasn't his usual shot-swatting self. He turned away two, five fewer than his average in Southeastern Conference play entering the game.
But Noel scored a career-high 19 points, making 7-of-10 shots.
"It's just a different type of game," Noel said. "I needed to step up offensively to keep us in the game a little bit, and I tried to just keep a good balance with it. I only took one shot last game. I took a few more and I was more effective offensively, so I wasn't going to stop taking shots."
Texas A&M spread its zone, Calipari said, which gave Noel opportunities in the post. But the UK coach lamented that his team didn't get its freshman forward more shots.
"And after the game, I just said, 'You had another great game and we don't give you the ball and you don't say anything,'" Calipari said. "Didn't say anything. He's happy we won. He's in there, he's good."
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