At first, Texas A&M was struggling on the road. Now, they are just struggling.
Those wrestling with Battered Aggie Syndrome had a field day this afternoon as the Aggies made it 3 losses in 4 games in an 81-78 heartbreaker against #25 South Carolina. In the past 2 weeks, the Ags have gone from Top 5 SEC favorite to a 3-way tie for 2nd place with upcoming matchups with now-1st place LSU and Kentucky.
This afternoon emulated many of the issues shown in Thursday's Vanderbilt loss.
Despite a last-minute flurry and coming one possession shy of going into OT, A&M once again looked disjointed on offense and could not stop the Gamecocks's lights-out shooting on defense. It's unclear whether this is a slump or teams are starting to scout them out, but Billy Kennedy's squad must regroup with 8 games still remaining on the schedule. Here are some biggest takeaways.
Closing out 3's.
For the 2nd straight game, the 3-pointer devastated A&M on defense. Against Vanderbilt and South Carolina, the Ags allowed 25 made 3-pointers on 50% shooting. It's one thing for a team to get hot, but many of the 3's today were open, good shots to take.
It seemed throughout the game that A&M assumed the Gamecocks's shooting would regress to the mean, but the moment came and the defense never adjusted. Against a lower-tier team, this strategy can work, but leaving the 3-point line open could come back to haunt the Ags if given the right matchup in the NCAA Tournament.
For the last few weeks, the Aggies earned some critical acclaim among college basketball analysts and caught the attentions of the A&M campus. Reed Arena was sold out and garnered back the magic it once had in the mid to late 2000's. After the complete whiff against Vandy, the student section at Reed still rocked but showed a few empty seats in the second deck.
Basketball support is a fragile entity and losing streaks such as these will send the attendance down the drain.
About that Final Play.
After somehow cutting the deficit to 3 points within in the final minute, the Aggies were gifted by a terrible inbounds from the Gamecocks with one final possession. A&M responded with an equally terrible inbounds play and could not even get a shot off in the final 5 seconds.
Coach Kennedy used their last timeout to draw up a final play to potentially tie the game. The result was Danuel House running to get open, then the rest of the team standing and not knowing what to do. It was a disheartening finish and a very poor draw-up for the final play.
The same occurred at the end of the first half when the offense did not do much of anything and House launched a desperate off-balance 3-pointer. For all of the good passing and ball movement the Aggies create on offense, the roster looks confused and indecisive when it comes down to the final seconds.