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
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
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.