Aggies battle Kansas State in Big 12 Tourney

After defeating Iowa State 60-47 on Thursday night, No. 6-seeded Texas A&M (23-9, 9-8 Big 12) plays No. 3 Kansas State (20-10, 10-6 Big 12) in Friday's second round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament at Kansas City's Sprint Center. An Aggie win would guarantee A&M's invite to the NCAA tourney. Kansas State is led by National Player of the Year Michael Beasley (left).

After defeating Iowa State 60-47 on Thursday night, No. 6-seeded Texas A&M (23-9, 9-8 Big 12) plays No. 3 Kansas State (20-10, 10-6 Big 12) in Friday's second round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament at Kansas City’s Sprint Center.

A&M's win over Iowa State may earn the Aggies an invite to the NCAA tourney, but a win over Kansas State would guarantee it.

Game time is set for 8:20 p.m. and will be televised regiuonally on ESPN.

The winner of the A&M-Kansas State will advance to Saturday’s semifinals (3:20 p.m.). The championship game will be Sunday at 2:10 p.m. on ESPN.

Kansas State will be making its 32nd conference tournament appearance this week. The Wildcats appeared in 20 Big Eight Tournament before joining the Big 12. The program has a 27-29 record in conference tournament play, including a 20-18 record in the Big Eight and a 7-11 record at the Big 12 Championship. The team has won two titles, taking the first Big Eight Tournament in 1977 as well as the 1980 crown.

Kansas State is 8-10 in quarterfinal/second round games in league tournament history, including a 2-4 mark in the Big 12 era. The team is looking to win its quarterfinal game for the second straight season after beating No. 5 Texas Tech, 66-45, at last season’s championship.

The Wildcats won their lone meeting with Texas A&M this season, upending the then No. 10-ranked Aggies, 75-54, at home on Jan. 19.  The Wildcats are 13-5 against the Aggies, including 1-0 at the Big 12 tournament.

Kansas State snapped a five-game road losing streak on Saturday, as the Wildcats swept the season series against Iowa State with a 73-69 win at Hilton Coliseum. The win gave the program 20 overall wins and 10 league victories for the second consecutive season. It marks the first time since the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons that KansasState has posted back-to-back 20-wins seasons, while the 10 Big 12 victories tie the 2006-07 squad for the most in the Big 12 era. The triumph also secured a third-place finish in the Big 12, which is the highest finish since it wrapped up third place in the Big Eight in 1988-89.

Kansas State is averaging 79.3 points on 44.4 percent shooting with 41.7 rebounds, 16.0 assists, 7.7 steals and 3.6 blocks per game, while holding their foes to 69.1 points on 42 percent shooting. The Wildcats rank among the top-35 nationally in scoring (19th), scoring margin (30th) and assists (33rd). The team has topped 80 or more points in 13 games (12 wins), which equals or surpasses the single-season totals of 80-point games from the last 17 seasons.

Kansas State is led by super freshman forward Michael Beasley (6-10, 235), pictured above, and redshirt freshman forward Bill Walker (6-6, 220).

On Thursday, Michael Beasley was named National Player of the Year by CBS Sports.com

Michael Beasley came out of high school a consensus Top 5 recruit, rated by Scout.com as the No. 2 high prospect in the country and by Rivals.com as the No. 1 prospect.

Beasley was a member of the 2007 USA Basketball under-19 World Championship roster and helped the U.S. to an 8-1 record and a silver medal at the 2007 FIBA World Championship in Novi Sad, Serbia Beasley averaged 12.3 points on 55.1 percent shooting with 5.3 rebounds with six starts.

Beasley has started every game for Kansas State this season and is averaging 26.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks, 1.3 steals and 1.2 assists in 31.3 minutes per game this season. Beasley has recorded a double-double in 26 of 30 games and has totaled 23 games of 20 or more points. He leads the nation in double-doubles (26), 40-point games (three), 30-point games (13), 20-point, 10-rebound games (21) and 30-point, 10-rebound games (13).

Bill Walker came out of high school a consensus Top 10 recruit, rated by Scout.com as the No. 8 high prospect in the country and by Rivals.com as the No. 6 prospect.

Walker saw action in just six games with five starts as a true freshman last year before he suffered a season-ending rupture of the anterior crucial ligament (ACL) in his left knee against Texas A&M. Walker had successful surgery in January and received a medical redshirt.

Walker has come back strongly from his injury. Walker ranks seventh in the Big 12 in scoring (16.0 ppg.) and 10th (6.5 rpg.) in rebounding. He places among the top-15 in three other categories, including sixth in offensive rebounds (2.61 rpg.), 10th in field goal percentage (45.9) and 11th in free throw percentage (71.9).

Other projected starters for the Wildcats are senior guard Blake Young (6,-2, 195, 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists), senior guard Clent Stuart (6-4, 195, 7 points, 3,assists, 3 rebounds), and either junior forward Andre Gilbert (6-7, 185, 4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) or freshman guard Jacob Pullen (6-1, 175, 10 points, 3 assists).

Frank Martin is in his first year as head coach of Kansas State. Martin was a member of Kansas State's staff during the 2006-07 season and was promoted to become the school's 22nd head men's basketball coach on April 6, 2007.

Texas A&M is expected to start the same lineup as it did for the Iowa State game on Thursday night: sophomore guard Donald Sloan (6-3, 205), junior forward Josh Carter (6-7, 200), senior forward Joseph Jones (6-9, 255), senior guard Dominique Kirk (6-4, 185), and sophomore forward Bryan Davis (6-9, 250).

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 overcame the personal tragedy of losing in mother early Thursday to lead the Aggie win over Iowa State with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Prior to Thursday's Iowa State game, Sloan had made 32 of his last 34 (.941) free throws, including 17 straight.

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.

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. Kirk scored 12 points and pulled down 6 rebounds in Thursday's win over Iowa State.

Freshman center DeAndre Jordan (7-0, 260) did not play on Thursday night and is very doubtful for Friday's game with Kansas State.

Jordan acquired a nasty stomach virus on Tuesday night and couldn’t even eat on Wednesday. He was unable to participate in the team’s workout session on Wednesday afternoon and was finally able to eat small portions at the team’s pregame meal on Thursday. At that point, the Aggies believed that Jordan would be able to go for the Aggies. But during pregame warm-ups, Jordan’s condition deteriorated once again and continued to worsen until he finally left the bench and was taken to a local hospital to be examined for possible appendicitis.

If unable to play, Jordan's 8.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks a game will be sorely missed against the strong Kansas State front court.

Starting in place of Jordan will be Bryan Davis. After coming off the bench the first 17 games of the season,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.

Averaging over 20 minutes a game and usually first off the bench is sophomore guard Derrick Roland (6-4, 190). Roland averaged 9.3 points in the three games prior to Baylor, but has been limited in the last three games by a shoulder injury.

Beau Muhlbach has averaged 7.0 points in the last five games. He scored a career-high 12 points with a career-best 5 rebounds in the win at Baylor. Muhlbach played 24 minutes in Thursday's win over Iowa State and scored 6 key points.

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). With Jordan out, Elonu played 19 solid minutes in Thursday's win over Iowa State.

After being soundly beaten in the first A&M-Kansas St encounter, with A&M's poor late season form, and facing the best player in the country in Beasley, most give the Aggies little chance of upsetting the Wildcats.

However, Aggies fans can draw hope from several factors.

Kansas State has showed vulnerability on the road, having lost five straight road games prior to Saturday's close win over Iowa State.

The Aggies showed tremendous heart under very trying circumstances in their win over Iowa State on Thursday night.

This game will be a huge challenge for the Aggies, especially with the likely absence of DeAndre Jordan.

The Aggies will have the added motivation of knowing that a win will guarantee their NCAA tourney invite, while Kansas State is already assured of their place in The Dance.

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 23 wins, but is 0-5 when its opponent wins the battle of the boards.

Another key will be for the Aggies to not have one or more long offensive dry spells that we've seen in most of the Aggie losses this season.

Hopefully with the heart displayed on Thursday and the motivation of an NCAA tourney invite, the Aggies can grind out an upset of Kansas State.

 


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