Aggies Await Rematch With KU

Mark Turgeon has another chance to play...and beat his alma mater. After Turgeon's Texas A&M Aggies lost to Kansas, 72-55, in College Station last Saturday, the two teams will meet again at 3:20 today in Kansas City at the Sprint Center in the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship.

After winning just one game in the first 11 Big 12 Championships, the Aggies (24-9) are coming off two wins in the tournament during the last two days. They beat Iowa State, 60-47, on Thursday and then squeaked by K-State, 63-60, on Friday night. The Aggies are now a definite lock for the Big Dance and looking to knock off Kansas (29-3) and improve their seeding in the NCAA tournament.

Senior guard Dominique Kirk led Texas A&M over K-State with a season-high 19 points, including five of six from three-point range. The Aggies also got 11 points from sophomore forward/center Bryan Davis, while junior forward Josh Carter added 10. Texas A&M hit seven of 14 three pointers, just the third time this season the Aggies have shot at least 50 percent from beyond the arc.

Turgeon, who played at KU from 1983-87, spoke about the quick turnaround in facing Kansas today. The No. 2 seed Jayhawks beat Nebraska, 64-54, in the early evening game on Friday, while the No. 6 Aggies played the late game and finished around 10:30.

“All we’re going to do is rest between now and 3:00 tomorrow,” Turgeon said. “Yeah, playing them a week ago is going to help us (with familiarity). We’re not going to change anything. They’re not going to change anything. I’m a little concerned. They didn’t play well tonight for them. They’re going to start with a lot more energy than they did tonight.

“KU to me is all about energy. When they have high energy, they’re good. They had unbelievable energy at our place a week ago and we didn’t play that bad. ... So I’m a little nervous going into (the game) knowing they will be a lot fresher than we are. And we will have to be a little bit deeper and play with a little more depth and our guys will have to step up and try to hang around. They watched the same game you watched tonight so they’re going to come after us and pressure us and we go to be able to handle it.

“But we’re looking forward to it. They whipped us pretty good on Senior Day, especially down the stretch. We’re looking hopefully to giving them a little bit better game.”

Turgeon is also hoping to get more production from 7-0 freshman center DeAndre Jordan, who has been ailing with a stomach virus and played just five minutes against K-State. He did not play versus Iowa State on Thursday.

“He ate a little bit (Friday),” Turgeon said. “He got some sleep. His mom forced it (food) down him, but he obviously didn’t have it (during the game). We gave him a shot. Hopefully, he will be able to help us (against Kansas). Hopefully, he will get some food down (Friday night) and we will have him back for a few minutes (today). ... I hope we have him. We need a little bit more depth (on Saturday).”

While it was all smiles in Texas A&M's locker room after the big win over K-State, the Aggies know they’re in for a big challenge against the surging Jayhawks, who have won five straight games.

“Oh man, it’s going to be a great game,” Kirk said. “We just got to go out and compete. Kansas is a great team, one of the best teams in the country. We got to go out and establish it in the post and throw it inside.”

“It’s basically going to be the same game plan (as the last matchup a week ago),” Kirk added. “Just go out and try to be physical and play hard and hit the backboards.”

Kirk said KU is “probably one of the few teams that have a balanced attack. It’s going to be hard for us. We got to be all together and help each other out. You can’t really focus on one or two because everyone on the court can hurt you, even the subs, Sherron (Collins) and Sasha Kaun. They come off the bench and do a good job.”

Kirk, a Dallas native who starred at Bryan Adams High School, is well aware of KU sophomore forward Darrell Arthur. Kirk played against Arthur one time in a summer league game.

“Ah man, he’s a talented player,” Kirk said. “He’s from the Dallas area. I’ve been watching him since he was growing up and playing for South Oak Cliff (High School). I knew he was going to be a great player. He’s a great player now. We just got to go out and play hard against him.”

Junior forward Brandon Rush is another player who can present problems for the Aggies. Rush, no doubt, will be looking to rebound off a poor performance in the last game in College Station, where he shot just two of nine from the field for 10 points.

“He’s just a great player, he is a great wing,” Kirk said. “I think him and Josh Carter match up real well. I think it’s going to be an exciting game.”

Senior 6-9 forward Joseph Jones agrees.

“We’re just going to try to do the best job we can,” he said. “We’re going to play tough defense and see where we end up. We just need to limit our turnovers. We feel they executed off our turnovers (in their last matchup). We had a couple of turnovers towards the end of the game, and they scored big baskets. So we just got to take care of the ball.”

And Jones knows the Aggies need to contain KU’s super big men Arthur, Kaun, and Darnell Jackson.

“They’re great players,” Jones said. “We just got to limit their touches and keep them off the boards because they’re a great rebounding team. They’re all very special players. We got to honor all of them. You just can’t pick out one and separate them.”

Jones said he’s enjoyed playing for first-year coach Turgeon, who helped guide KU to the 1986 Final Four.

“I love it,” Jones said. “Coach Turgeon is a very good coach. He wants to win every game. He does a great job of coaching and preparing us.”

It seems Turgeon spoke to Jones and the players the other day about his KU career.

“He told us about the games where Danny Manning had like 30-some points his sophomore year,” Jones said. “He told us a couple of stories about his days playing and how great it was. He feels like if we keep playing (well), we can make the same memories he had back then.”

And does playing Kansas mean more to Jones since that’s Turgeon’s alma mater?

“It makes it more special, but at the same time, you got to honor every team like you do every other team,” Jones said. “Every team is good and every game is a big game to us so we got to come out and approach it as a big game and hope for a victory.”

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