No. 9 Texas A&M rolls into game against Texas-Rio Grande
Texas A&M is clicking on all cylinders.
Outstanding guard play. Dominating in the paint. Championship-caliber defense.
The only weakness might be between the ears as the No. 9 Aggies have at times this season looked a bit complacent and played with a lack of urgency.
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Billy Kennedy has assembled his deepest and most dangerous team in his seventh season at College Station. These Aggies might be the best in school history, and the sky’s the limit.
“We’re capable of doing something special if we can stay unselfish and continue to utilize our depth,” Kennedy told 247sports.com. “The key with our team is we can be our strongest advocate, or we can be our biggest enemy. We’ve got to continue to be unselfish and take care of ourselves off the court.
“If we do that, we’re going to have some special opportunities at the end of the season.”
The Aggies, sitting at 6-0 heading into Thursday’s home game at Reed Arena against Texas-Rio Grande Valley of the Western Athletic Conference, already have four quality wins.
First, No. 11 West Virginia, then Oklahoma State and Penn State and most recently No. 10 Southern Cal all took their shot at Texas A&M and didn’t come close as all lost by double digits.
Their travels have taken the Aggies from Texas to Florida to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to southern California. The one constant has been defense.
“You play in New York City, you win in L.A. It doesn’t get any bigger than that,” Kennedy said. “We’ve got to stay humble and keep doing the things we’ve done.”
Opponents are scoring 66 points per game and shooting 37 percent from the field. From 3-point range, the Aggies are allowing only 23.3 percent of attempts to be made. The defense also averages more than 15 turnovers per game.
“Every media (timeout), we try to take it one four minutes at a time,” Texas A&M’s Duane Wilson told 247sports. “We don’t try to look ahead or look farther than what needs to be. That’s really our game plan — one play at a time and get defensive stops.”
The Vaqueros (3-5) shouldn’t prove a whole lot of resistance except to see if the Aggies stay engaged. Rio Grande comes in on a three-game losing streak and most recently lost to SMU 95-64 on Tuesday night.
SMU pounced early, caused Rio Grande to turn the ball over 15 times (for the game) and had a 20-point lead with less seven minutes in the first half. Rio Grande played better in the second half, making half of their field goal attempts.
But at least Rio Grande showed some fight in the second half, unlike their previous game, a loss to Grambling on Saturday.
“This is the first time in seven games I thought we didn’t fight,” Rio Grande coach Lew Hill told The Monitor (McAllen, Texas). “I thought our fight and our toughness wasn’t there. … I think they looked at their jerseys and saw they hadn’t won a game and overlooked them. We aren’t good enough to overlook anyone.”
The Vaqueros started last season 9-9 but finished with only 10 wins.
Nick Dixon leads a young team that returns most of its core. Young is one player who might give the Aggies some trouble. He ranks 23rd in the country in scoring, averaging 22.5 points per game, and this season already has a game with 39 points.
DJ Hogg (16.8) leads five Aggies who average double figures. Tyler Davis scores at 13.7 per game with Admon Gilder (12.3), Wilson (11.7) and Robert Williams (10.0) rounding out the five.
The Aggies are beasts on the boards. Williams leads the way with 9.0 boards per game. Davis and Hogg aren’t too far behind at 8.2 and 7.3 per game, respectively.
That trend should continue as the Vaqueros’ tallest player is Xavier McDaniel at 6 feet 6.
The Aggies might be a bit distracted as their next game is against Arizona in Tempe, Ariz., in the Valley of the Sun Shootout on Tuesday.
Arizona dropped from No. 2 to out of the Top 25 after losing three straight prior to its 93-56 victory over Long Beach State on Tuesday.