Texas A&M played themselves a decent basketball game last night, folks. This one was fun. Let's dive in to the MSU victory that could not have come at a better time.
It was nice to see A&M come out of the gate strong. Early aggressiveness by Shawn Smith (29 minutes; 10 points / 3 assists / 4-9 FG) and Jamal Jones (32 minutes; 20 points / 7 rebounds / 4-8 3PT) led to an 8-3 lead heading into the first media timeout. To their credit, MSU overcame their slow start (1-5 FG, 2 TO's) with a bang, using a 10-2 run to take a 3 point lead heading into the midway-point of the half.
Our Aggies responded by playing some fine offensive basketball in the latter portion of the half, using six different scorers to push the lead back to six. (Quick note: Slick passing was the theme of the evening for the good guys, as they ended the game with a fantastic 22/6 Assist/TO ratio) The seesaw first half closed with an MSU mini-run, led by Gavin Ware (32 minutes; 7 points / 7 rebounds) down low. Halftime score: Texas A&M 26, Mississippi State 26
Early Second Half
The second half started much as the first ended, with teams trading buckets en route to the first media timeout. A&M kept pace through three early Kourtney Roberson (25 minutes; 14 points / 6 rebounds / 7-9 FG) buckets, and the Ags scored on four consecutive offensive possessions overall.
"The Burst" (36-35 A&M lead; 16 minutes remaining)
I use the term burst somewhat facetiously. While Texas A&M did take control of this game via a 16-0 run, it wasn't what I would call a traditional run. For example, it took ten minutes. It was more of an "A&M was playing pretty well, but MSU had a historically bad passage of play that forced the Ags to go on a run just by scoring at a normal pace" situation.
I kid, I kid. After the two prior games, I'm not going to poke holes in a 20 point victory. While MSU did have an impressive run of offensive ineptitude (10 straight missed FG; 5 turnovers), a good portion of those mistakes were forced by a return to defensive form for the Aggies. We were closing out with intensity AND we were blocking out. It was nice to see.
Offensively, the Ags piled on through Alex Caruso (31 minutes; 10 assists / 4 points / 3 rebounds) pulling the strings. Dylan Johns (12 minutes; 5 rebounds / 2 points), Davonte Fitzgerald (13 minutes; 7 points / 3-9 FG), and Jones all scored easy buckets off of Caruso feeds, and after a Jones offensive putback + Fitzgerald three A&M was up 12.
The next three minutes of play featured no scoring by either team (S-E-C! S-E-C!), followed by our Ags resuming the "run" with a strong Fitzgerald take and a Jones three on yet another feed from Caruso. The 16-point 10-minute burst was complete.
Late Second Half (52-35 A&M lead; 6 minutes remaining)
I'm glad our Aggies kept their foot on the gas, because MSU eventually starting hitting again. Ware and Craig Sword (27 minutes; 10 points / 4 assists / 3-12 FG) played well down the stretch, but A&M had an answer for every Bulldog bucket. Shawn Smith, who played very well all night, converted on a really nice drive to stall an MSU mini-run, and Jamal Jones pushed the lead to 20 with back-to-back threes. This one was over .
The final few minutes played out uneventfully, and the 20 point lead remained. Final score: Texas A&M 72, Mississippi State 52
Game MVP: Shawn Smith played exceptionally well and Caruso did Caruso things, but Jamal Jones is my MVP. The past two games have shown us what happens to this offense when he isn't hitting, and his return to form is a sight for sore eyes.
Game Highlights (courtesy of Aggie Athletics)
Overall Impression / Looking Forward
Winning basketball is fun! Multiple contributors, timely shooting, and a bit of Bulldog incompetence made this one a blast. And with upcoming Georgia/Vanderbilt road games sandwiched around an LSU tilt at home, a return to 6-6 seems well within the realm of possibility.
Any thoughts on the game last night? Hit the comments below.