We are now less than 48 hours until we get to finally look under our Christmas trees and find out what Santa brought us. A little over a week from now will be New Year's Eve. Some will spend that night with a quiet evening at the house, watching the ball drop at midnight, then call it a night. Others will put Miley Cyrus's, "Can't Stop" on repeat and live out the party montages from Old School. For the latter, the following New Year's Day will be spent on the couch with a trash can at our side, saying to ourselves, "Never again."
Aggie basketball this past Saturday managed to skip over the party sequence and go right to the hangover stage.
To put it lightly, basketball was not fun to watch as the Ags scored 14 first-half points and shot 8.7% (!!!) from 3-point range to lose another marquee game against a formidable opponent in Oklahoma. And to put a rotten cherry on top, it was reported shortly after the game that J-Mychal Reese was dismissed from the team after violating team rules for the second time in less than two months. Let's hope the young man can learn from this experience and turn things around elsewhere.
After beginning the season with some intrigue and a glint of hope for a possible turnaround season, Texas A&M has revealed itself to be a young, hardworking defensive team with very limited options on offense.
THE FIRST HALF
Umm... Yeah. That was... Yeah, I don't know.
I guess if you were a fan of defense, wherever you may be, then this was the half for you. The offensive ineptitude came in variety of ways on the court. Sadly the ghastly sight of the Aggie offense distracted from their best defensive showing of the year. OU entered the contest with a TOP 10 scoring offensive, averaging 85+ points per game. Their lowest point total of the season before Saturday was 76 against then #1 ranked Michigan State. The Sooner's leading scorer, Cameron Clark, who came off a 31-point performance in their last game, failed to score a single basket in the first half.
This was more than OU playing badly (which they were). The Ags created 16 turnovers, 8 of which were steals. Using their length and athleticism, A&M intercepted passes and were able to get multiple bodies in the paint to block off any easy baskets. Even though the offense ceased to exist, the Ags did not let up on the other end and managed to be down only 9 at the half.
If there is any encouragement from this past Saturday, it's that the team can matchup with mostly any opponent on the defensive end (except for the post, which we'll get to later). Texas A&M has the athleticism to keep every game close, but obviously it will be difficult when your offense looks like this.
THE SECOND HALF
The Aggies matched their first-half point total within the first ten minutes and had multiple chances to tie or take the lead when missed free throws began to plague them. Unfortunately, the Sooners found out that the circular object they were holding was a basketball and the objective of the game was to put the ball through the netted, circular thingy attached to the square thingy.
OU also revealed a big weakness of A&M, outside of shooting: rebounding. The Sooners outrebounded the Ags 50-39 and, when the game was close, used their size to grab offensive boards and get easy second-chance points. As of now, Kourney Roberson is the only option in the frontcourt, and if A&M plays any one with size in the post, they are in trouble. It hurt them against SMU, and it hurt them against versus the Sooners.
Another issue plaguing the Ags is the inability to drive to the basket. With all the basketball IQ Alex Caruso has, he cannot get by defenders on his own. Toward the end of the game, Fabyon Harris and Jordan Green started to force the issue with relative success, but it's hard to tell if it only occurred because the game was out of hand. With Reese's dismissal, Harris is the only true point guard left on the roster. It should be interesting to see what lineups Billy Kennedy comes up with now that the Ags no longer have a 6th man to create offense with the second unit.
The lack of offense was more than a bad night. Texas A&M has a very limited offense when Jamal Jones can't make threes. Coach Kennedy either needs to get very creative on offense or give the green light to Harris and Green to drive into the lane and create easy baskets for guys like Jones and Roberson.
At this point, the Ags have the ability to play with anyone but don't have the skills to beat above average competition. There are two more games left before SEC play begins, but if A&M wants to fill any seats inside Reed Arena, they have to find a way to step up on the big stage.