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The next four games for Iowa State will make or break the season. With three home games and an away game at Mizzou, the Cyclones will largely decide their fate by the first week of February. Win all of the games and they will find themselves at least tied for second in the conference. It all starts with the Aggies of Texas A&M.

The next four games for Iowa State will make or break the season. With three home games and an away game at Mizzou, the Cyclones will largely decide their fate by the first week of February. Win all of the games and they will find themselves at least tied for second in the conference. It all starts with the Aggies of Texas A&M.

 

The Aggies are a mystery to most. Nobody is real sure how good Billy Gillispie's team is. Their record indicates they are a good team (11-4). But, the competition pre Big 12 play has been a little suspect. I'm not taking anything away from the likes of Savannah State and Texas Southern, but let's just say the Ags weren't tested. In fact, the teams they played in the non-conference have combined to be 32 games under .500. Nonetheless, they did beat a common opponent of ISU in Northwestern St. 73-61.

 

In conference play, Texas A&M won their first game over Texas Tech 63-51, then has dropped three straight by a combined seven points, all in the last minute. (@ Ok. State 77-79, Oklahoma 44-45, @K-State 54-58). They are 0-3 on the road this season and didn't play outside College Station until January 3rd.

 

Last season the Aggies completely shut down Iowa State in the second half, as the Cyclones went 13 minutes in the second half without a basket and shot 28 percent for the game. A&M won 75-59. Gone from that team is All-Big 12 performer Antoine Wright, who scored 22 against the Clones last year.

 

This year the Aggies are a classic two-headed attack. They have a solid guard in Acie Law IV and one of the best young big men in the country in Joseph Jones. Law, in his junior season, is averaging 17 points, but putting up over 24 points in conference play. Law is a versatile guard at 6'3. He can shoot it (37 percent from 3) or take it to the rim. He is very adept at creating his own shot.

 

Jones, a sophomore, may be the best young post player in the Big 12. At 6'9 250 he is a well built specimen that will bully his way in the inside. He is averaging 15 points and seven boards. He also has a nice touch from the free-throw stripe (78 percent). In a game against North Texas, Jones had 35 points and 13 boards. The one liability Jones has is he hasn't been able to play a full 40 minutes. He only averages 25 minutes per game due to stamina and foul trouble. He's the only Big 12 player to rank in the league's top 15 in both scoring and rebounding while averaging fewer than 27 minutes.

 

The Aggies also start 6'3 sophomore guard Dominique Kirk. He averages 6.2 points, but had 15 points last season against ISU. He can hurt you from outside, shooting 38 percent from downtown. 6'5 senior forward Chris Walker is in the starting line-up to play defense. He is a great stopper, but struggles to score (3.4 PPG). The other post man is Marlon Pompey a 6'8 225 junior. He played with Curtis Stinson in prep school. Pompey is a physical, aggressive player who gets points off rebounds and free throws. (7 PPG, 4 RBG) He has just as many offensive boards as defensive.

 

Off the bench, coach Gillispie turns to sharp-shooter Josh Carter (6'5 freshman). Carter puts up eight points a game off the bench. Almost 70 percent of his shots come from beyond the arc, where he shoots 37 percent. Second off the bench is 6'10 JUCO transfer Antanas Kavaliauskas (I'm glad I'm not John Walters for that pronunciation.) Mr. K averages 5.5 points and 3 rebounds. He also will throw his 250 pounds around as he picks up a foul every four minutes.

 

The Aggies have a simple game-plan. Force tons of turnovers with pressure D, they lead the Big 12 in turnovers forced at over 21 per game. They also will attack the glass and go to the free throw line. They lead the Big 12 in free throws made per game (18) and attempted (26). They aren't an electric offensive team, but they will attempt to make you play their physical brand of basketball. Iowa State needs to match their intensity and take care of the ball. It sounds like the same plan over and over again, but if ISU can get into a high-tempo game in the high 70's they will be successful. They can't afford to get into a hack-fest with the Aggies, because they will wear ISU out. It will be interesting to see if the Clones can carry over their success from Tuesday. If they play that same type of basketball, it should be no problem. But, as the old saying goes, "ISU's only consistency is being inconsistent." Let's hope that will change on Saturday.

 

Prediction: Iowa State 73 Texas A&M 65   


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