Preview: Texas A&M at Oklahoma State
(AP) — Texas A&M has gotten back on track at the expense of the lesser teams in the Big 12, but a win in Stillwater is far from a sure thing.
Facing a fourth straight team with a losing record in conference play, the 21st-ranked Aggies try to complete a sweep of Oklahoma State and notch only their third win at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday night.
After losing four of five, Texas A&M (20-5, 7-4) has rebounded with three straight victories. The Aggies are coming off a 71-66 win over league-worst Iowa State on Wednesday.
Texas A&M had a 10-point lead cut to one in the second half, but Khris Middleton hit three foul shots in the final minute to seal the win and finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
While Texas A&M’s last three opponents are a combined 9-24 in Big 12 play, the Aggies have only beaten those teams by a combined 11 points. They have split eight games since a 16-1 start.
“We’re not playing with the type of toughness we want to be successful, but it’s a good win for us, especially this type of year,” coach Mark Turgeon said Wednesday.
Facing lesser competition, Texas A&M’s offense has improved after stumbling. After being held below 50 points in two of the previous three losses, the Aggies have reached 70 in all three wins.
Nathan Walkup has provided help for Middleton, Texas A&M’s leading scorer. Walkup scored 19 points Wednesday and is averaging 16.0 while shooting 65.6 percent the last three games. Before the winning streak, he was averaging 9.5 points and shooting 48.3 percent.
The Aggies will likely need the senior forward’s help again at Gallagher-Iba Arena, where they’ve lost two in a row and are 2-13 all-time.
Texas A&M did beat Oklahoma State (16-9, 4-7) 71-48 on Jan. 12. Walkup had 16 points in that victory in which the Aggies outscored the Cowboys 36-19 in the second half. However, Oklahoma State has been a different team at home, going 2-1 against ranked opponents and 11-1 overall.
The Cowboys are returning home after two straight road losses. They suffered a 73-55 defeat at No. 3 Texas on Wednesday.
Oklahoma State never led, shooting 37.5 percent and committing 17 turnovers. Markel Brown led with 14 points but Keiton Page was held to seven – nearly half his season average.
“I thought in the first half, we just dug ourselves a hole and I thought we were fortunate to only be down by 11,” coach Travis Ford said. “You just can’t go on the road and shoot our percentage and have 17 turnovers.”
Oklahoma State struggled to score during its road trip, averaging 54.5 points while shooting 36.8 percent. At home, it’s averaging 76.3 points and posted wins over previously ranked foes Kansas State and Missouri.
However, this will be the first home game without starting forward Darrell Williams, who was suspended indefinitely in the wake of four felony charges.