Aggies Flex Muscle Over Bears

In front of a charged crowd at Reed Arena, Mark Turgeon's squad played their best game of the year to send Scott Drew and the bears packing with a convincing 84-73 win on Wednesday night. Facing a daunting schedule, the latest Aggie performance showed that they are ready to compete for much more than just a tournament bid.

Facing a murderer's row of games on the schedule that includes contests with OU, Texas, and Kansas in a nine day span, the Texas Aggie basketball team was faced with a must-win situation against the highly-talented, guard-oriented No. 21 ranked Baylor squad with a street ball mentality. Sensing the urgency of the moment and feeding off the energy of a smaller yet boisterous semester break crowd, the Aggies played with a sense of urgency and intensity not seen in the non-conference schedule. The result was a convincing 83-72 victory that will surely help A&M's resume' come tournament selection time in March.

This was a classic match-up between two very good basketball teams, and recent history from last year's five overtime marathon in College Station and the nastiness of the crowd's behavior in Waco added to the intensity of the contest last night. Of course, the Baylor players and fans had the luxury of coming into an environment at Reed Arena without the threat of thrown debris and other unruly behavior that marred the game in Waco, a luxury not afforded to A&M players and fans last year.

The Aggies fed off that intensity, and that was reflected in the breakout performance by Junior Elonu who completely dominated the boards in the first half and scored at will from the post against sluggish and overmatched posts in Maradou Diene and Josh Lomers who combined for zero points, two rebounds, and six fouls in just 12 minutes. Elonu's success forced Baylor almost exclusively into a four-guard set most of the evening. For the game, A&M's post players outscored Baylor's front court by a wide margin of 37-12.

The other key stat of the game was turnovers, something that has hurt A&M in recent weeks. However, despite the challenge of Baylor's quick guards which usually causes A&M troubles offensively, the Aggies only committed seven turnovers all night compared to 11 for the Bears. That was a huge turnaround in the outcome of this game. The Aggies had a +5 assist-to-turnover ratio while Baylor struggled with a -5 ratio.

Besides Elonu on offense, the key was the balanced scoring attack from the starting lineup. All five starters scored in double figures and combined for 74 of the team's 84 points. The experienced veteran core of this team (Davis, Sloan, Carter) that has been maligned in recent weeks with uninspired play, totaled 47 points with many of those points coming at critical junctures in the second half when Baylor started closing the gap. Derrick Roland knocked down two big three-pointers, and his 10 points was a bonus in this game.

Until late in the game when the team started to tire, the defensive effort to stop Baylor's three-point capabilities was the best in Turgeon's tenure at Texas A&M. The game plan to double team the ball off of high post screens at the key and wing was executed to perfection and was very effective limiting the Bears to one three-point goal in the first half and five overall.

In summary, the Aggies played its most complete game of the year when they needed it most. With No. 6 ranked Oklahoma coming to town Saturday, the road gets even tougher and stakes are still high. With back-to-back road trips to Texas and Kansas coming next week, the Aggies must defend the home court and not force the team into a must-win situation on the road in two very difficult environments. In fact, Kansas has not lost at Phog-Allen Fieldhouse since a certain maroon-clad left-handed point guard nailed a three in the closing seconds to shock the Jayhawks almost two years ago…yes, two years ago. Thus, the Aggies must come out with the same intensity on Saturday if they hope to beat OU and the best college player in the country today, Blake Griffin. A win over OU and the Aggies suddenly are thrust into the Big 12 title picture and their prospects for the NCAA Tournament are quite promising. A loss and the team must figure out the daunting task of beating Kansas or Texas on the road if they want to stay in the hunt for a bid.




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