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Cats looking inward after being undone by Turner's huge day

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Nerlens Noel had 15 points, 11 rebounds, a career-high-tying seven blocks, a career-best six assists and four blocks in a loss to Texas A&M on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Nerlens Noel had 15 points, 11 rebounds, a career-high-tying seven blocks, a career-best six assists and four blocks in a loss to Texas A&M on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Even with Elston Turner doing his best Jodie Meeks impression, Kentucky found itself leading Texas A&M by four with a little more than six minutes to play.

UK had battled back from a deficit that reached nine points early in the second half and Rupp Arena was rocking unlike it had at any point so far this season. Perhaps excited by the environment and eager to make a play, the young Wildcats turned gamblers, going for steals and blocks when the situation demanded a more conservative approach.

"When you're in that game and it's four minutes to go and it's crunch time, it's gut time, you don't take chances," John Calipari said.

Especially not against the Aggies on Saturday afternoon.

Texas A&M made the Cats play, going on an 18-2 run to make the game's 13 lead changes a distant memory. Unsurprisingly, it was Turner who did the bulk of the damage. He dished an assist and scored eight of his 40 points during the game-breaking spurt that sent Kentucky to an 83-71 defeat.

"We just tried to contain him and make him take tough shots," said Archie Goodwin, who led UK with 17 points. "He was just on and got going early and so we tried all we can do. In the second half, we slowed him down a little bit, but I guess it still wasn't enough for us to get a win."

Turner made 14-of-19 field-goal attempts and 6 of 10 from 3 to become just third UK opponent in Rupp history to score 40 or more points. His scoring output ties Derrick Miller for the fourth-largest scoring output in a Kentucky game in the storied past of the 36-year-old venue.

"I was just going with the flow, didn't really play attention to who was guarding me or what they were trying to do," Turner said. "I was really just trying to get our team going and we had the confidence that we could beat this team. My teammates did a great job looking for me and I was able to hit some shots."

Once his fellow Aggies got him the ball, there wasn't much more they needed to do than sit back and watch. With the way Turner was raining jumpers over defenders' outstretched arms, there were times the Cats may as well have done the same.

"I'm gonna be real, I just stepped back and watched the show like everybody else did," Texas A&M guard Fabyon Harris said.

Turner - who boosted his scoring average from 15.5 points to 17.1 with his career day - made a heroic Nerlens Noel performance little more than an afterthought. Noel scored 15 points on just six field-goal attempts, posting 11 rebounds, seven blocks, six assists and four steals in the process and even inspiring brief talk of a quadruple-double.

"He was the main reason that we stayed in the game," Goodwin said. "With his effort on defense and offense, guys couldn't hold him in the post and we should have done a better job of getting him the ball more and more than we did. He should have been the focal point of our offense tonight. On defense he gave us his all and we really depended on him tonight and he really stepped up."

There was no questioning Noel's effort in his 39 minutes. Point guard Ryan Harrow too spent just one minute on the bench in scoring 11 of his 14 points after halftime and delivered energy from start to finish. The same goes for Goodwin.

"I know I was playing with energy," Harrow said. "Archie was playing with energy. Nerlens was playing with energy. The guys that don't have as much energy as us, they just have to buy into it. We all have to have that type of energy."

The Cats now sit at 10-5 on the season and 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play, meaning they will have to heed Harrow's advice in short order to avoid being thrust into conversation about the NCAA Tournament bubble. Goodwin, however, sees that talk as premature.

"This is just our second conference game," Goodwin said. "We still have the likes of Missouri and Florida to play and we still have a lot of room for growth. I think we'll make the adjustments we need to by the time the tournament comes around."

Coach Cal is obviously going to be taking an active role in making sure that happens, but Noel believes it's high time the Cats take ownership of their own fate.

"Cal's done enough for us," Noel said. "It's about time we take the responsibility for things. We've been doing pretty good but we just got to kick it up a notch and keep listening to Coach. He's definitely pointing us in the right direction, but there's a time that us as players got to take responsibility, and I feel that time is now."

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