Texas A&M has scraped and crawled, tooth and nail, and finally here they stand, 13-1 with one game remaining before conference play. Two days after narrowly beating an opponent they should have easily handled, the Aggies host the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, an 8-5 team from the Great West Conference. A&M will enter the game as heavy favorites, but this year have proved handicap to be a non-factor; the Aggies seem to play any class of team down to the wire.
North Dakota enters this game on a two game winning streak, having knocked off Minnesota – Crookston and Minot State in overtime at home in Grand Forks. They are led by head coach Brian Jones, who is in his 3rd year with the team and has posted a 34-37 record in his career with the Fighting Sioux. This is North Dakota's first meeting ever against Texas A&M, although the Sioux did face A&M coach Turgeon's old team Wichita State earlier this year, falling 51-66.
While the Fighting Sioux do not pose much of a threat athletically to the bigger and taller A&M squad, they bring a team laden with experience into Reed Arena. North Dakota utilizes 4 seniors in its rotation, including 3 seniors in Darius Joseph, Daniel Harkins, and O.J. Harrison.
North Dakota Guards
All three guards are the seniors mentioned above, meaning there is a lot of experience in this talented backcourt. They are led by Hawkins, a 6'3" shooting guard who is a natural shooter, leading the team with 14 points per game. Hawkins' frame is very similar to the Aggie equivalent Derrick Roland, who should be given the task of shutting down this shooter, a task he excels at.
Harrison and Joseph both have strengths of their own as well. Harrison can also hit the three ball, and should provide Josh Carter with an interesting duel at the three position. Both players are known for their long range jumpers and occasional rebounds, although Carter has been working on his defense which has been paying dividends in these recent close games.
Joseph may be the most complete player for the Sioux, with 4.2 assists per game to go with his 8.5 points. Additionally, last year he led the team with 85 percent free-throw shooting, and he knows how to slash to the lane well. Sloan must work to stay in front to prevent Joseph from reaching the line.
North Dakota Forwards
In the last few games A&M has had the overwhelming advantage in the interior, and Monday's game should be no different. At power forward Bryan Davis will match up with 6'5" junior Travis Mertens, who holds his own due to his relatively stocky build. Despite playing the four at only 6'5", he is the team leader in rebounds with 6.6 per game. Davis has struggled with rebounding as of late, but he should make up for any missed boards on the offensive end, where his four inch height advantage should lead to a big day.
At center, red hot Elonu will match up with 6'8" sophomore Derek Benter. Benter would be classified as the weak link in the Sioux's starting five, as he averages only 4.5 points per game and a paltry 3.3 rebounds per game, the lowest figure among the starters. With Elonu pulling down rebounds right and left, this will be another key matchup that should allow for Texas A&M to pull away to victory if everything plays out as expected.
North Dakota has improved each year under Coach Jones, but they still do not have the talent required to hang with A&M. With the Aggies on the tail end of a long stretch of games, there will be no rust to shake off as A&M should get out to an early lead provided they do not again play down to the opponent.
Texas A&M 74
North Dakota 56
A&M vs. North Dakota Matchup
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