Great shooting? A focused rebounding effort? A game (mostly) devoid of A&M scoring droughts?
Yes, yes, and yes. Our Aggies played perhaps their most complete game of the season, and tournament hopeful LSU was never really close down the stretch. Let's take a look back at the impressive victory.
One interesting starting lineup note: Jordan Green made way for Antwan Space; a move surely designed to counter LSU's aggressive offensive rebounding.
A couple of early threes by LSU's Anthony Hickey (33 minutes; 9 points / 6 assists / 3-7 3PT) pushed the Tigers to an early 8-2 lead, and three early Alex Caruso (23 minutes; 9 points / 3 rebounds / 3 assists) turnovers had the A&M faithful thinking "here we go again." But then a funny thing happened... the Ags settled down. Antwan Space (26 minutes; 5 rebounds / 3 assists / 2 points) hit a quick bucket down low and Caruso fed Roberson for a gimme before sticking a three of his own. Just like that A&M was only down one heading in to the first media timeout.
LSU wasted no time pushing the lead back to 20-14, with only a handful of Tavario Miller (20 minutes; 9 points / 7 rebounds) hustle plays and offensive rebounds keeping us within arm's reach.
Davonte Fitzgerald Time
What a jolt off the bench... Fitzgerald's impact (9 minutes; 11 points / 3 rebounds / 3-4 3PT) was immediate. He hit a three, a transition layup (off his own steal), and another three inside of 45 seconds to pull A&M back into this ballgame and get the crowd involved. More dirty work down low by Miller (who really had a nice game) and a Jordan Green (21 minutes; 9 points / 4-8 FG) three had A&M up 1 headed into the under-eight break.
LSU's Jarrell Martin (31 minutes; 11 points / 6 rebounds) kept the Tigers moving through the latter portion of the half, but even more A&M bench production (Green, Harris, and yet another three by Fitzgerald) kept the Tigers at bay until the halftime buzzer.
But what should have been a happy sojourn to the locker room turned sour when Fitzgerald went down grabbing his knee late in the first half. Aggie faithful hoped for the best, but the season-ending nature of his injury was confirmed 24 hours after game time. This squad just can't catch a break.
Halftime Score: Texas A&M 43, LSU 37
The team came out like gangbusters in the second half, riding the Kourtney Roberson (23 minutes; 12 points / 10 rebounds) train to an early 8-2 run. This included a ferocious "AND ONE" dunk that set the tone for the remainder of the half and pushed the lead to 51-39. (Quick note: Roberson has slid under the radar most of the season, but his solid defensive play down low has been a huge part of this team all year. It was nice to see him break out offensively and get some well deserved publicity.)
The Tigers did a decent job recovering from that blitz, as O'Bryant and Shavon Coleman (31 minutes; 21 points / 8-13 FG / 6 rebounds) nudged the A&M lead back down to four. But Jamal Jones (33 minutes; 19 points / 7-15 FG / 5-10 3PT) and Shawn Smith (24 minutes; 8 points / 4 rebounds / 4 assists) led an immediate response that pushed the lead back up to 12. After a couple of Tiger buckets, Caruso hit a key "and one" (lower case - it was a layup) to stall the momentum. And with the Tigers reeling, ANOTHER Miller offensive putback combined with a beautiful feed from Harris to Green pushed the lead to fifteen.
Everyone was hitting, everyone was hustling, and everyone was getting rewarded for their effort. It was fantastic.
LSU made things slightly nervy coming down the stretch, but two consecutive Jamal Jones threes pushed the lead back to thirteen and put us all at ease. The always enjoyable foul + free throw ballet followed, and when the dust settled A&M walked away with a ten point victory. Final Score: 83-73
Game MVP: Kourtney Roberson played a man's game down low. We weren't going to win without the entire front line showing up, and he led the charge.
Highlights (courtesy of Aggie Athletics)
- The Texas A&M subs outscored their LSU counterparts 33-4
- Jamal Jones was 5-10 (50%) from beyond the arc and four separate A&M players hit a three
- Eight different A&M players recorded an assist, and Shawn Smith led the squad with four
- Three A&M players who don't often contribute free throws shot very well from the charity stripe: Caruso (4-5), Smith (4-5), and Miller (5-6)
- A&M's attack was extremely balanced, as seven players scored at least eight points and all nine players recorded a bucket
The remainder of this game was a nice departure from the unfortunate injury news, but now it's time to face the facts. We lost our second-best scoring option, and our only surefire threat on any day Jones isn't hitting. Smith and Miller have continued to improve over the course of the season, but their freshman slumps are going to have to disappear completely if we are to go on any type of run. It's all hands on deck.
Thoughts on the game? Ideas for the rotation moving forward? Hit the comments below.