On an icy night in Lawrence in front of a sold-out crowd at Allen Fieldhouse, an upstart young Texas A&M pushed Kansas to the limit but came up short in the end, falling 65-60 to the No. 2 Jayhawks.
The conference opener was a showdown of two Big 12 undefeated teams in which first year Aggie coach Billy Gillispie faced his close friend and former colleague, Kansas head coach Bill Self. Gillispie was an assistant for five years under Self at Tulsa and Illinois.
``I'm happy for him, proud for him.'' Self said of Gillispie. ``I would rather not play friends.''
In a nail-biter that went down to the final seconds, Texas A&M matched Kansas on defense and kept themselves in the game from start to finish. But in the end, the Jayhawks made 11 of their last 13 free throws and put the game away.
"It was a tough loss," said Gillispie. "It wasn't our best game of the year, but we battled hard."
Kansas freshman Alex Galindo hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 42 seconds left and gave the Jayhawks the lead for good. Galindo had missed four of his first five threes.
After taking much criticism for playing a soft schedule leading up to conference play, Texas A&M displayed an abundance of talent and grit against the number two team in the country.
The name of the game for A&M was defense. The Ags held the Jayhawks to 41 percent shooting and out rebounded them 33-27.
"We didn't shoot well," Galindo said, "but somehow we found a way to win."
6-foot-7 junior Antoine Wright, A&M's leading scorer, had only one point in the first half but finished with 14 on the night. Freshman Joseph Jones had 16 for the Aggies.
``They are a great team,'' A&M forward Chris Walker said. ``We don't believe in moral victories.'' But the significance of this game cannot be overlooked. The Aggies made a statement on the road in a tough venue: Texas A&M is no longer an automatic win on any opponent's schedule.
"They're a well-coached team," said Kansas senior guard Aaron Miles. "They play hard and they have some good players on their squad. Coach Gillispie is doing a great job over there. They're playing a lot better than they were last year. They defended well and offensively they made plays."
``They looked real good to me,'' said Miles.
The Aggies continue conference play against archrival No. 11 Texas next Wednesday at home in Reed Arena.
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