No. 24 Texas A&amp,M 60, Iowa St. 56

Texas A&M’s Donald Sloan put it best: There’s a fine line

between winning and losing in the brutal Big 12.

Sloan and his teammates seem intent on bending that line as much

as they can.

He scored 14 points and No. 24 Texas A&M held off Iowa State

60-56 on Saturday for its fifth win in six games.

Khris Middleton added 12 points for the Aggies (19-7, 8-4 Big

12), who bounced back from a close loss to top-ranked Kansas on

Monday with their seventh straight win over the Cyclones.

The Aggies have won their last three road games – by a total of

just nine points. It’s not exactly the way Aggies would have drawn

it up, but Sloan believes it’s a good sign with March just around

the corner.

“You have a different feeling when you win a close one,” Sloan

said. “It’s a thin line between losing in the Big 12 – whether

it’s three points or whatever – and we’ve been able to be on the

other side of that fine line.”

Texas A&M let a 10-point lead dwindle to 54-53 before David

Loubeau’s inside basket gave the Aggies a 56-53 lead with 1:10

left. Sloan and Middleton then hit four straight free throws to put

Texas A&M ahead 60-53 with 17 seconds left.

Diante Garrett and Marquis Gilstrap each had 15 points for Iowa

State (13-14, 2-10), which lost for the ninth time in 10 games. The

Cyclones have lost 21 straight to ranked teams dating to 2006.

“We’re just all a little heartbroken. It’s right there, and we

know we need to make that one extra play and we got it,” said Iowa

State center Justin Hamilton, who had eight points and 12

rebounds

Much like in recent road wins over Missouri and Texas Tech, the

Aggies had to sweat this one out.

Iowa State held Texas A&M scoreless for nearly 5 minutes and

rallied to pull within 54-53 on two free throws by Garrett with

2:31 left. But Cyclones star Craig Brackins grazed the rim with a

jumper following Loubeau’s basket, forcing the Cyclones to put the

Aggies on the line.

Sloan and Middleton calmly made their free throws, a trait

common for teams used to winning ugly. Gilstrap hit a 3 and Iowa

State got a turnover off A&M’s inbounds try, but the Cyclones

couldn’t get a decent look before the buzzer sounded.

“We didn’t finish this game the way we wanted to finish it,”

Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. “We made a few mistakes,

but I thought our defense was really good, too, and that was the

difference.”

Points were hard to come by for both teams, but that was to be

expected. Iowa State and Texas A&M came into the game ranked

10th and 11th, respectively, in the Big 12 in scoring offense.

The Aggies got a bit of breathing room midway through the second

half, though. Middleton’s dunk capped a 7-0 spurt that gave Texas

A&M its biggest lead to that point, 47-39, with 9:38 left.

Texas A&M’s B.J. Holmes then made a layup to make it 54-44

with 5:58 left. It would take nearly 5 minutes for the Aggies to

score again.

The Aggies held a slim lead for most of the first half. They

went into the break ahead 31-28 despite shooting 37.9 percent from

the field.

The Cyclones frontcourt duo of Brackins and Gilstrap combined to

shoot 9 of 30 from the field. It was the second straight rough

outing for Brackins, who scored 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

Brackins was 3 of 17 from the field in a 69-64 loss to Oklahoma

State on Wednesday.

“I was mad because I was hoping I would get the 3 for 17,”

Turgeon joked. “He’s playing a lot of minutes, a lot of pressure

on him to score for that team.”

Texas A&M may not be a pretty 8-4 in the Big 12, but it’s an

impressive 8-4 considering that the Aggies lost guard and senior

leader Derrick Roland to a broken leg on Dec. 22

Texas A&M will have a lot to say about who emerges from the

muddled pack below Kansas in the league standings, with games

against Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State coming up in the next two

weeks.

The Aggies will likely have to play better than they did

Saturday if it hopes to survive that stretch. The Aggies shot 39.6

percent and had 13 turnovers against just eight assists.

“If you would have told me we’d be 8-4 after (Roland) went

down, and some of the things that have happened to us, I would have

said I’d take it,” Turgeon said. “With that said, you never know

when your next win is coming in this league. So we’ve got to get

better.”