Aggies battle Iowa State in Big 12 Tourney

No. 6-seeded Texas A&M (22-9, 8-8 Big 12) plays No. 11 Iowa State (14-17, 4-12 Big 12) in Thursday's first round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament at Kansas City's Sprint Center. The Aggies need a win over the Cyclones to keep their NCAA tourney hope alive. Game time is set for 8:30 p.m. in the nationally-televised game (ESPN2).

No. 6-seeded Texas A&M (22-9, 8-8 Big 12) plays No. 11 Iowa State (14-17, 4-12 Big 12) in Thursday’s first round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament at Kansas City’s Sprint Center. The Aggies need a win over the Cyclones to keep their NCAA tourney hope alive. Game time is set for 8:30 p.m. in the nationally-televised game (ESPN2).

The winner of the A&M-ISU game will play No. 3-seeded Kansas State on Friday at 8:20 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to Saturday’s semifinals (3:20 p.m.). The championship game will be Sunday at 2:10 p.m. on ESPN.

A&M is coming off a 72-55 loss to No. 5-ranked Kansas at home on Saturday. The Aggies are 2-2 in their last four games and 7-5 in their last 12.

The Aggies are 1-11 in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship and have lost two straight. A&M’s lone victory in the tournament came two years ago in Dallas when the Aggies beat Colorado, 86-53.

A&M was the No. 2 seed last year but suffered a 58-57 upset by No. 7-seeded Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals.

The only previous meeting between A&M and Iowa State at the Big 12 Championship came in Dallas in 2003. The Cyclones came away with a 97-70 victory, dropping A&M to 14-14 on the year and eliminating the Aggies from postseason consideration.

Iowa State have not won a Big 12 Tournament game since a 77-57 win over Baylor in the 2005 Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.

The Cyclones ended the regular season with a close 73-69 home loss to Kansas State on Saturday. True freshman Craig Brackins tallied his fourth 20-point game of the season with 24 points. Brackins was 9-of-17 from the floor and grabbed seven boards.

Greg McDermott is in his second year as head coach at Iowa State, having been announced as head coach on Mar 21st, 2006.

In the five years prior to taking the Iowa State job, McDermott compiled a 90-63 record as head coach at Northern Iowa, leading Northern Iowa to three straight NCAA tourney appearances (2004-2006).

McDermott faced the daunting task of competing in his initial season with just four returning scholarship players and nine scholarship athletes. After being picked for 11th in the preseason Big 12 poll, McDermott and his staff led the overachieving Cyclones to a tie for seventh in the league, finishing 15-16 overall and 6-10 in the Big 12.

McDermott and Aggie head coach Mark Turgeon have faced each other many times. Turgeon was the head coach at Wichita State from 2001-07, facing McDermott a number of times when he was head coach at Northern Iowa. McDermott is 7-5 all-time against Turgeon-coached teams.

Iowa State is a fairly young team, starting two or three freshmen.

The Cyclones are led by senior center Jiri Hubalek (6-11, 225) whoi is averaging 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Hubalek ranks sixth in the Big 12 in rebounding and 18th in scoring.

Sophomore forward Wesley Johnson (6-7, 210) is averaging 12.5 points and 3.9 rebounds a game this season. Johnson is averaging 15.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and making 54.5 percent of his shots (12-22 FG) in two career games vs. Texas A&M. Johnson has 46 treys on the season.

Freshman forward Craig Brackins (6-10, 220) is averaging 11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1 block a game. Brackins is averaging 18.5 points in his last two games. Brackins has 31 blocks on the season, ranking fourth on ISU’s freshman chart

Senior forward Rahshon Clark (6-6, 200) is averaging 8.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks a game.

Freshman guard Bryan Petersen (6-1, 175) is averaging 5.6 points and 2.9 assists a game. Bryan Petersen has made a 3-pointer in seven-straight games, going 15-of-33 from downtown (45.4 percent) in that span.

Freshman guard Diante Garrett (6-4, 170) has averaged 6.4 points and 2.8 assists a game. Garrett is averaging 14.5 points and shooting 62.5 percent (10-16 FG) from the field in the last two games.

The other two Cyclones expected to see significant playing time are freshman guard Sean Haluska (6-3, 195) and junior forward Alex Thompson (6-10, 230). Haluska is 28-of-56 (50 pct.) from the field and 14-of-31 from 3-point range (45.1 pct.) in his last 12 games. Haluska is averaging 8.5 points in his last six games.

Texas A&M is expected to start the same lineup as it has since the second Texas Tech game: junior forward Josh Carter (6-7, 200), senior forward Joseph Jones (6-9, 255), sophomore guard Donald Sloan (6-3, 205), senior guard Dominique Kirk (6-4, 185), and freshman center DeAndre Jordan (7-0, 260).

Josh Carter leads the Aggies in scoring with 12.5 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. Carter has hit 66 three-pointers this season and ranks fifth in career three-point accuracy in Big 12 history at 42.9 percent. In A&M's big win over Texas in January, Carter led the Aggies with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Carter had 17 points and 6 rebounds in last Wednesday's win over Baylor.

Joseph Jones is averaging 10.6 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. Jones was named MVP of the NIT Season-Tip-Off in November and scored a season-high 18 points with 6 rebounds in the win last month over Oklahoma. Jones ranks among the school’s career top 10 in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, field goal percentage, steals, free throws and free throw attempts. Jones has scored in double figures in 22 games and tied his season-best with 9 rebounds against Missouri.

Donald Sloan is averaging 9.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists a game. Sloan scored a career-high 21 points with 5 assists and 5 rebounds against Missouri and has made 28 of his last 30 free throws. Sloan scored 17 points and snagged 8 rebounds in Wednesday's win over Baylor and scored 15 points in Saturday's loss to Kansas. Sloan has made 32 of his last 34 (.941) free throws, including 17 straight.

Dominique Kirk is averaging 8.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists a game. Kirk owns the Big 12 record for consecutive starts with 127. A defensive All-American last year, Kirk’s primary defensive assignment in Big 12 play this year has made just 34 percent from the field. Kirk scored 15 points in Saturday's loss to Kansas.

DeAndre Jordan started the first 17 games of the season, and returned to the starting lineup in A&M's win over Texas Tech. Jordan and is now averaging 8.7 points and 6.6 rebounds a game, has made .621 from the field and is chasing the school record for season field goal percentage. Jordan leads the team in blocks with 44 and has had at least one in nine straight games. Jordan had 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots in last Wednesday's win over Baylor.

First off the bench and averaging over 20 minutes a game will be sophomore forward Bryan Davis (6-9, 250) and sophomore guard Derrick Roland (6-4, 190).

After coming off the bench the first 17 games of the season, Bryan Davis started the 10 games prior to Texas Tech. In 10 games as a starter, Davis ranked second on the team in scoring (11.5) and leads in rebounding (6.2). For the season, he leads the team steals (34), ranks second in blocks (33) and is third in rebounding (4.8). Davis posted career highs in rebounding (30) and rebounding (14) against Baylor for his first career-double-double. Davis picked up his second double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Missouri.

Beau Muhlbach has averaged 7.0 points in the last four games. He scored a career-high 12 points with a career-best 5 rebounds in the win at Baylor.

Derrick Roland averaged 9.3 points in the three games prior to Baylor, but was limited in the last two games by a shoulder injury.

Freshman guard Derrek Lewis (6-5, 195) came off the bench and played 17 minutes in A&M's win over Tech, based upon his strong defensive performance in practices earlier in the week..

Other Aggies who have seen significant playing time are sophomore forward Chinemelu Elonu (6-10, 235), true freshman guard B.J. Holmes (6-0, 175), and true freshman forward Nathan Walkup (6-6, 195).

The Aggies have won the last four games in the series with Iowa State, including two in Ames.

Iowa State lost to A&M, 69-51 at home on Feb. 5. It was the worst home defeat for the Cyclones this season. The Cyclones shot just 35.6 percent from the field, while A&M hit on 47.4 pct. The Aggies were led by Bryan Davis, who scored 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor. Jiri Hubalek paced Iowa State scoring 18 points.

A key to the game will be rebounding. The Aggies rank among the top 15 nationally in rebounding margin at +7.4. A&M has out-rebounded its opponent in all 22 wins, but is 0-5 when its opponent wins the battle of the boards.

The Aggies likely need a win over Iowa State to keep their hopes of an NCAA tourney invite alive.

We expect this to be the motivation the Aggies need to claim their second Big 12 tourney win in history on Thursday night.

 


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