Texas A&M-Texas Preview

Texas has come into the Big 12 tournament determined to make

amends for a miserable end to the regular season.

The 10th-ranked Longhorns got off to a strong start, and will

try to reach the championship game for the first time in three

years Friday night when rival Texas A&M will try to stop

them.

Texas (26-6) seemed ready to claim its first outright conference

title since 1998-99 after an 11-0 start that included snapping

Kansas’ 69-game home winning streak. The Longhorns won all but one

of those games by double digits, but couldn’t finish with a share

of the Big 12 crown as they dropped three of their final five

contests and ended up one game behind the Jayhawks.

Texas’ first game in Kansas City, Mo. went a little way toward

helping put that poor finish in the past. The Longhorns dominated

Oklahoma 74-54 on Thursday as Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson

each recorded double-doubles.

Texas also perhaps showed how much it had matured by quickly

regaining momentum after allowing the Sooners to cut seven points

off a huge halftime lead.

“At halftime, Coach (Rick) Barnes told us that we might be up by

23, but we had to come out in the second half with intensity and do

what we do,” Thompson said. “There have been some situations in the

past where, you guys know the result. We wanted to keep pressure on

them and extend the lead.”

The Longhorns helped themselves with a 39-23 rebounding edge and

by limiting Oklahoma to 40.4 percent shooting. That formula served

them well during their school-record Big 12 start, which included

two wins over the Aggies (24-7).

“We know it’s a new part of the season,” guard Jai Lucas said.

“I think that just added a whole new aspect and gave us a little

more energy than coming down the stretch. So I feel good where we

are right now.”

Texas won those games by an average of 20.5 points, outshooting

its rivals by nearly 18 percent and a rebounding advantage of 8.0

per contest.

Aggies leading scorer Khris Middleton (14.2 points per game) was

the only player to score in double figures with 16 during an 81-60

loss in Austin on Jan. 19. With 19 points, B.J. Holmes was the only

one to tally more than nine in a 69-49 home drubbing Jan. 31.

“We just have to play better,” Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon

said. “I think we’ve become a better team. We changed the way we

played since the whipping at home. It humbled all of us.”

Hamilton, meanwhile, averaged 23.5 points on 60.7 percent

shooting in those wins for second-seeded Texas. He’s the team’s top

scorer with 18.6 points per game.

After enduring their own lackluster finish, the Aggies showed

they might have regained their scoring touch in an 86-71 win over

Missouri on Thursday. Holmes and David Loubeau each scored 20 for

the winners, who shot a season-best 57.8 percent.

Texas A&M entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed after

losing two of three to end the regular season. The Aggies averaged

56.0 points on 39.7 percent shooting over that stretch.

Texas A&M will be looking to reach the Big 12 championship

game for the first time. If the Aggies advance, they’ll face either

No. 2 Kansas or Colorado on Saturday.