Mizzou, Texas A&M put four-game win streaks on the line

Jordan Geist and the Tigers lost at Texas A&M in January.
C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

It would seem that a couple of teams on fairly even footing will face each other when Missouri hosts Texas A&M on Tuesday. But it’s not that simple.

Both teams are 17-8 overall and are riding four-game winning streaks. Mizzou is 7-5 in SEC games, the Aggies 6-6. And both have even beat Kentucky in recent days, Texas A&M on Saturday and Mizzou the Saturday before.

But the Aggies, who returned to the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 21 this week after a month-and-a-half absence, have a whole new set of issues to deal with.

But first, the good news for the Aggies: The win over Kentucky was their sixth in their past seven SEC games and allowed them to even their conference record after beginning the campaign with five straight losses. They also improved to 4-3 against ranked teams.

Texas A&M junior forward DJ Hogg said afterward that the biggest difference in the last couple of weeks is the Aggies’ positive attitude.

“We’ve just been sticking together and listening to the game plan and following what Coach (Billy Kennedy) says,” Hogg said. “He is a positive man and in turn helps us stay positive. We just feed off each other’s energy.”

But the bad news came Sunday. The team announced that two of its freshman players had been suspended for violations of Texas A&M policy. JJ Caldwell has been dismissed from the team and Jay Jay Chandler has been suspended indefinitely.

Then on Monday evening, Texas A&M officials said graduate transfer guard Duane Wilson would be lost for the remainder of the season and that his career for the Aggies had come to an end. Wilson initially suffered a knee injury on Dec. 30 at Alabama, missing three games before returning Jan. 13 at Tennessee. He played in each of the Aggies’ last nine games before reinjuring the knee against Kentucky.

Mizzou enters the Texas A&M game with no such concerns, and even with hope that heralded recruit Michael Porter Jr. could return soon after missing all but the first game of the season following back surgery. But it won’t be against the Aggies.

The Tigers are coming off an 89-85 overtime win Saturday at home over Mississippi State. Their four-game streak is the Tigers’ longest in conference play since they won five straight in the Big 12 in the 2011-12 season.

“Good win. We made it a lot tougher down the stretch than we would have liked, but it’s all about growth,” Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin said afterward. “Our guys maintained composure, focus and fight. Great team effort, I’m happy for our guys. It’s basketball. Do the things necessary to win the game.”

Tuesday’s game is crucial for both teams’ hopes at a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Martin was asked after the win over Mississippi State if Mizzou is an NCAA Tournament team.

“I’ve never debated on us being an NCAA Tournament team,” he said. “If you say there’s 64 teams, we’re one of the 64 without question. That’s not a debate. Are we one of the better teams in the country? That’s not a debate. We are one of those teams. The focus is not to win a game so we can make the tournament. I’m not talking about that. We’re already that.”

The Tigers will seek to snap a seven-game losing streak to Texas A&M and avenge a 60-49 loss to the Aggies in College Station on Jan. 20.