The first thought I have from the game is that Coach Grant at Alabama is a really mediocre coach. The Tide has the SEC's best point guard and a minimum of three posts that are longer and more athletic than anybody Texas A&M has on the court, yet once Billy Kennedy took away Releford, the other four Alabama players just sort of languished around the 3-point line and didn't do much but jack up a bunch of outside shots.
Overall, A&M didn't play a great game, but they played smart and limited bad plays and turnovers. Individually, I thought Jamal Jones had his best game as an Aggie. Jones looked for his shot, but he didn't force up bad shots like he did earlier in the season when he emerged as the primary scorer. Last night, he was more patient and shot his 3-pointers in rhythm...and when he does that he's much more effective and accurate making 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. He was also comfortable around the basket and doing what had to be done to put the ball in the basket. He finished 5-of-8 inside the 3-point line. He finally looked comfortable in his role as the go-to guy, the marked man for the opposing defense. I expected that about three weeks ago, but after a few shaky outings a couple of weeks ago, he's turning into not only a dynamic player that can score, but a consistent player that does what it takes to help his team win. I'm starting to get excited about what Jones can do for this team next season, especially with more ballhandlers and assist men in the lineup like Alex Robinson and Peyton Allen.
I also thought Antwan Space had his best game as an Aggie. Despite shooting 0-4, Space did post up and get to the basket and fouled on several quick, athletic moves to the hole. He looked more comfortable posting up and making an offensive move out of that position than he has all season. But the eye-popping stat of the night was Space's 12 rebounds along with four assists, three blocks, and no turnovers in 31 minutes of work.
On the flip side, Kourtney Roberson seems to be deteriorating in his skill set, especially in putbacks and layups near the basket where he's struggling now. He finished 2-of-11, which is even worse when you consider he doesn't shoot anything further than 5 feet from the goal. His hands limit what he can do in the post. I was actually encouraged with the 5 minutes Dylan Johns played. He executes both the offensive sets and defensive assignments, and slowed down Alabama's attack in the paint.
But the numbers tell the story. Once again, A&M had a large positive assist-to-turnover ratio with a whopping 19 assists to just 8 turnovers. That's a huge component to winning basketball. A&M has been trending to the positive in the past couple of weeks with this ratio which I consider one of the most important statistical numbers in basketball.
The team is getting better, but is it enough at this point? Can the season be salvaged with three more regular season wins and a .500 conference record? Can the A&M career of Billy Kennedy be salvaged with a .500 conference record? All indications suggest that Kennedy is safe in 2014, barring a meltdown.
Tennessee will be a big game. The Vols are on the NCAA Tourney bubble and will come into Reed motivated and wanting to repay that ugly loss in Nashville. A&M needs it to protect home court and stay on pace to go 9-9 in SEC play.
Hop's Analysis of A&M Hoops Win
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