Tide Finishes Regular Season At Texas A&M

When Alabama defeated Texas A&M, 65-44, to begin Southeastern Conference play on Jan. 6, the Aggies were without Jalen Jones, A&M’s leading scorer and rebounder. Bama may have its leading scorer and rebounder when the Crimson Tide finishes SEC regular season play Saturday, but that doesn’t mean Bama isn’t a wounded team.

Alabama (17-13 overall and 7-10 in SEC games) will meet Texas A&M (20-9, 11-6) at Reed Arena in College Station at 1 p.m. CST Saturday. Fox Sports will televise the game, and it will be the final broadcast for 42-year veteran Larry Conley as color analyst.

The Crimson Tide has had its share of injuries this year, including losing two of its top four scorers. Starting point guard Ricky Tarrant has not played in the last 10 games because of a ruptured plantar fascia and forward Shannon Hale had surgery Friday after breaking his foot against South Carolina Feb. 24.

“Both teams are different,” Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said Friday. He said he had “been impressed with Texas A&M’s development. They are playing good basketball.” He pointed to the A&M defense, which ranks among the best in the SEC against both two-point and three-point field goals, and the Aggies rebounding margin, which is second only to Kentucky.

Texas A&M averages 67.7 points per game to Alabama’s 67.1, and the Aggies allow 62.1 compared to Bama’s 64.0. A&M gathers in 36.4 rebounds per game and gives up 31.8, while Alabama averages 33.4 rebounds and Tide opponents get 33.0.

Alabama senior guard Levi Randolph is coming of a season-high of 32 points in a losing effort against Ole Miss in Bama’s final home game of the year. He leads the Tide with a 15.3 points per game average. He is expected to be joined in the starting lineup by fellow senior Rodney Cooper (10.5 ppg), junior guard Retin Obasohan (5.3 ppg), sophomore center Jimmie Taylor (5.1 ppg, and coming off a 13-point, 11-rebound game against Mississippi), and either senior forward Dakota Slaughter (1.6 ppg), sophomore forward Michael Kessens (6.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg), or freshman forward Riley Norris (4.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg).

The return of Jones is a major plus for A&M. The 6-7, 223-pound post player “is very active, capable of stepping out to make a shot,” Grant said. Hew averages 13.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Danuel House, 6-7, 207, is the leading scorer for the Aggies at 14.89 points per game. Grant also pointed to the improved play of guard Alex Caruso, who averages 9.7 points and 5.7 assists per game.

Grant said that despite disappointing losses, including last Tuesday’s 82-74 home loss to Ole Miss, that his players “are resilient.” He also said that Bama looks forward to the SEC Tournament and “the opportunity to extend the season.”

Alabama has an 8-4 advantage in the series, but there have been only three previous games in the series with the two both in the SEC. Bama is 2-1 in those games. The Aggies have won four of the last six meetings.

Next up after A&M for Alabama is the SEC Tournament, which begins Wednesday in Nashville. The schedule will be determined following Saturday’s conference games. Alabama will play for the first time on Thursday.

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