Texas A&M-Mississippi St. Preview
Texas A&M struggled through by far its worst offensive effort of the season when it played its only true road game a month ago.
The 21st-ranked Aggies hope that type of performance is out of their system as they visit Mississippi State for their first SEC road game Wednesday night.
A&M (11-2) shot 31.1 percent - its next-lowest percentage is 40.6 - and scored more than 26 points below its season average in a 67-54 loss at Arizona State on Dec. 5. It bounced back to shoot 49.8 percent while winning its next four at home, though, including Saturday's 92-69 rout of Arkansas in the conference opener.
Jalen Jones scored a career-high 28 points and hit 9 of 13 from the field. However, he finished 2 of 10 from the floor and tied his season low with six points against the Sun Devils and is shooting 35.6 percent in four road and neutral site games.
''You need to win every game at home, because playing on the road is super tough,'' said Jones, who is averaging 20.6 points in five home games and 11.0 elsewhere. ''You're not going to get the same kind of momentum on the road that you get at home.''
Jones shot 54.9 percent and hit 8 of 13 from 3-point range during the Aggies' homestand, but the senior now has to take that act on the road. Texas A&M opens SEC play with three of four away from home, also visiting Tennessee on Saturday and Georgia on Jan. 16th.
''I'm just trying to do everything I can to help my team win games,'' Jones said.
Rick Stansbury is in his second season as an assistant to A&M coach Billy Kennedy, and he'll likely have some words of advice for playing at Humphrey Coliseum, where the Bulldogs (7-5) have won five of six this season.
Stansbury coached Mississippi State from 1998-2012 and reached the NCAA Tournament six times before retiring, at the time citing the need to spend more time with his family. He'll be honored during a pregame ceremony before he tries to help knock off the Bulldogs, who are coming off a 71-48 home win over North Carolina Central on Thursday.
Gavin Ware scored 16 points and freshman Malik Newman added 15 for Mississippi State, which has won three straight. It was outrebounded 48-38, though, and is near the bottom of the 14-team SEC with a minus-0.8 rebound differential.
Texas A&M is third at plus-5.3.
''I was really pleased with our defensive performance except for the number of second shots we gave up,'' coach Ben Howland said. ''But we held them to (23.6 percent from the field) for the game so the zone was good for us, but we will still be doing a lot of blocking-out drills in practice.''
The Aggies have held seven opponents to less than 40 percent shooting and the last six have scored fewer than 70 points. They're also among the major conference leaders in turnovers forced per game at 16.1.
"Defensively they are really good," Howland told the Bulldogs' official website. "They force a lot of turnovers, they help each other and create a lot of steals. They keep their bodies fresh to wear their opponent down."
Texas A&M has won three of the four meetings since it joined the SEC, splitting the road matchups that both were decided in overtime.