It was a familiar story line for Texas A&M, but once again it was the defensive play of the Aggies that led them to a victory against an underrated Stephen F. Austin team. "If you like defense, that was a heck of a game," head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. "I didn't think we were ready for this kind of game this early in the season. They are a very good team. They had 26 wins last season and they will have that many, if not more, this season. They played us tough, but we played hard and came out with the win. I had a lot of kids grow up tonight."
Players not frequently called on were asked to step up during the game due to some poor performances by starting forward Junior Elonu, who got in early foul trouble, and win Josh Carter, who finished just 1-6 from the field after scoring 23 in his first game. In place of Elonu, Nathan Walkup finished with 7 points and a career best 11 rebounds, looking confident in the unnatural post position. A pair of those 7 points came at a crucial moment in the game, with Walkup hitting a baseline jump shot as the shot clock expired with a little over a minute left in the game, pushing the Aggies' lead to 48-42.
After the game, Turgeon was pleased with his players defensively but believes they could have executed better on offense. "We didn't start out like we would like, but we came out in the second half and our guys made stop after stop," Turgeon said. "I am very disappointed in our offense. I think we have the ability to score but we didn't execute worth a flip. We had a ridiculous number of turnovers. I think we are a team that can have 10 or less turnovers a game. Loubeau and Nate gave us great minutes at the 4 tonight. This was a heck of a win for us. This is a good team that got beat this early in the season. I wish we didn't have to play them, but we did, and we got the W."
Turgeon had good reason to not be excited to play a Stephen F. Austin team that returned virtually all of its playmakers from last year, and combined solid defense with the shooting of senior Josh Alexander, who scored 21 points on Tuesday, shooting 7-10 from behind the arc. While the Lumberjacks were able to stay in the game shooting 10-21 from the three, they were unable to penetrate a smothering A&M defense, led by Derrick Roland, Donald Sloan, and Dash Harris. In fact, in the second half Austin did not score a field goal from inside the arc.
While A&M escaped with the win, they must continue to improve if they are to be successful in the Big 12. Along with Bryan Davis and Donald Sloan, who each finished with 16 points on the night, the Aggies must find another shooter than can compensate for Josh Carter having an off night. Also, Carter must be able to deal with pressuring defenses better, as teams will key on him as the man to stop through conference play. The Aggies next test is against Jackson State this Friday at Reed at 7:00 pm.
Defense lifts Aggies past SFA, 55-48
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