Texas A&M-Mississippi St. Preview

Texas A&M and Mississippi State will become much more

familiar with each other starting next season.

This time, the Aggies are trying to continue their dominance

over non-conference opponents.

Ray Turner looks for another strong effort of his own Thursday

night when No. 19 Texas A&M faces the Bulldogs for the first

time in 45 years in the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer

Classic at Madison Square Garden.

These teams will soon become accustomed to seeing each other

more frequently starting in 2012-13 when Texas A&M (2-0) moves

from the Big 12 to the SEC.

The Aggies, co-favorites with Kansas to win the Big 12 this

season, have won 12 of 13 against non-conference teams. They will

be facing the Bulldogs (2-1) for the first time since 1966.

Texas A&M hasn’t had much trouble so far this season,

posting a pair of wins by a combined 47 points. The Aggies never

trailed in Sunday’s 83-58 rout of Southern, four days after an

81-59 victory over Liberty.

Turner has scored 20 points on 9 of 11 from the field in each

game. The junior forward, tied for the team lead with 14 rebounds,

averaged 4.0 points and 3.2 boards as a reserve last season.

“I’m probably in better condition than I’ve ever been,” Turner

said. “I keep my head focused, I’m not just doing it for me, but

for all my teammates and everyone.”

Turner’s dramatic jump in production is quite welcome with Khris

Middleton, the team’s leading returning scorer, out 3-4 weeks after

knee surgery.

While Turner gets comfortable with his increased role,

first-year coach Billy Kennedy is trying to re-acquaint himself

with the team after his return Sunday. He missed the season opener

after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease last month.

“I’m trying to get acclimated to what’s going on,” Kennedy said.

“I’ve been relying on my assistants, who have done a tremendous

job. I just don’t want it to be about me. I want it to be about the

players and the organization.”

Those players have shot 61.0 percent through two games and

dominated the boards to the tune of an 83-50 advantage.

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury is aware of the challenge

that awaits his club, which is looking to build on Saturday’s 80-65

win over South Alabama.

“Obviously, we are facing a great team in Texas A&M, who was

picked to win their conference,” Stansbury said. “They have a lot

of experienced players back from a year ago, and we will have to

play at our very best.”

Stansbury could use some consistency out of Dee Bost, the team

leader with 17.3 points per game and 3.3 assists.

The senior guard made 6 of 13 shots, but missed 6 of 8 3-point

attempts while scoring 16 points and grabbing seven boards

Saturday. He was far worse from the floor three days prior,

shooting 2 for 9 overall and 1 for 6 from beyond the arc for 13

points in a 68-58 loss to Akron.

Bost feels the Bulldogs can make a statement in this

tournament.

“These are the type of games you practice hard and work hard

for,” he said. “We feel like we have a lot to prove.”

The winner of this game will face either St. John’s or Arizona

in the tournament’s championship game Friday night after the

consolation contest.