Florida Gulf Coast-Texas A&M Preview
Though the disappointment may have faded somewhat, Texas A&M is likely to be anxious to get back to action after mulling over the title that got away in the Bahamas.
The 18th-ranked Aggies will go after their 12th straight 5-0 start at home Wednesday night when they take on a Florida Gulf Coast team that hasn't fallen too far from its “Dunk City” days.
Texas A&M jumped seven spots in the poll after beating Texas (84-73) and then-No. 10 Gonzaga (62-61) in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament before falling to Syracuse (74-67) in Friday's final.
The victory over the Zags was the program's first over a top-10 opponent since defeating No. 10 Texas in January 2008. Texas A&M, though, felt as though it let one slip away against the Orange.
The Aggies had averaged 86.7 points on 53.3 percent shooting during a 6-0 start. However, they finished with a season-low 42.2 field-goal percentage – including 6 for 20 from 3-point range – and were outscored 13-6 over the final 5:38 in the championship game.
Coach Billy Kennedy, who relies on major minutes from three freshmen and a sophomore, hopes his young team can learn from its first loss with just five games left before the start of SEC play.
''We just got to keep getting better as a team,'' he said. ''I think our freshmen had freshmen moments. It's a high-level game and just something we've got to learn from. And we will. It's a great experience for our team to be in that atmosphere three nights in a row.''
Kennedy had to like what he saw from two of his veterans. Seniors Danuel House and Jalen Jones were named to the all-tournament team after totaling 48 points in the title game.
House scored 17.7 per game while hitting seven 3-pointers in the tournament. Tonny Trocha-Morelos, who had 14 points versus Gonzaga, has made 11 for 15 from deep on the season.
The Aggies have shot 55.9 percent and 47.1 from beyond the arc while winning their first four games at Reed Arena by an average of 33.7 points. They've won at least their first six at home in every season since 2004-05 and 111 of the past 116 there versus nonconference foes.
They'll get their first look at the Eagles, who gained fame during 2013 NCAA Tournament when they became the first 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16. They were given their nickname because of their high-flying finishes while upsetting No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State.
Florida Gulf Coast nearly returned last season under former Kansas assistant Joe Dooley, winning 22 games before falling in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun tournament.
The Eagles have gotten off to a 4-3 start this season, though two of their victories have come against non-Division I opponents. Christian Terrell finished with a career-high 24 points Sunday when they snapped a two-game losing streak with a 91-34 home rout of NAIA Ave Maria.
Florida Gulf Coast held a 33-32 halftime lead at Florida on Friday before fading in the second half of a 70-50 defeat. That's the only contest in which the Eagles have put up less than 73 points.
“We're really excited about playing (Texas A&M) because we played pretty well in the first half against Florida,” Terrell said. “If we can link two good halves together, hopefully we can beat them.”