Aggies closer after week of adversity

The Aggies overcame one challenge after another in Kansas City. Now the team says they're closer because of the experience, and are hoping to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Once again, it will be against the odds.

On the heels of a 65-59 loss to Nebraska at home, on the back end of a three-game conference losing streak, team leaders Dominique Kirk and Joseph Jones were "encouraged" by A&M head coach Mark Turgeon to hold a players-only meeting. At the meeting—which lasted nearly two hours—players "aired out" some issues that they had with one another.

After interviewing players the day after the meeting, the feeling among many members of the media—right or wrong—was that cliques had formed within the team.

But those cliques were nowhere to be found on the Aggies' charter flight to Anaheim after the team drove to Dallas to attend the funeral of Donald Sloan's mother on Tuesday, who recently passed away due to an undisclosed illness.

"I've known Donald for a long time. Seeing him this past week, the things he's gone through, it showed me just how strong of a person he is," said Davis. "Our big thing is that we're a family. He knows we're his family and we'll be there for him no matter what."

Josh Carter didn't know how he would be able to play basketball after losing his mother.

"It's always hard to lose a family member, especially someone like you're mom. I can't imagine," Carter said. "He's a strong person and he's doing alright, he's still been Sloan. I've been praying for him and hopefully he's okay. We just have to build a circle around him and let him know we're here for him."

And that's what the Aggies have done, creating an us-against-the-world mentality in the process, even choosing to hold a private NCAA Selection Show watch party at Turgeon's house rather than the two-year-old "tradition" of a party at Reed Arena like the women's team held on Monday.

Of course, winning three of their last five games, a stretch that saw the Aggies take No. 1 seeded Kansas into the final 30 seconds down by just a basket, helps as well, and Turgeon is hoping that his young team is able to carry that momentum into the Honda Center on Thursday against BYU.

"We overcame a lot of adversity this weekend, and the guys feel good about themselves," Turgeon said. "It doesn't always show up in wins and losses but we're playing better and we're playing the way we need we play and we overcame a lot of adversity this weekend. They were in a tough environment in a road game against Iowa State, a definite road game against Kansas State and a heck of a road game against KU. We had two good wins (in that stretch) and played against a No. 1 seed that really played well and we just kept hanging around."

Turgeon hopes that if the Aggies are able to get past No. 8 seed BYU on Thursday, that his Aggies can "hang around" another No. 1 seed in a Saturday match up with UCLA.

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