This was an encouraging victory, and one I was happy to attend live.
The shots weren’t falling, our reliable guards weren’t at their best, and we still found a way to get it done in ultimately comfortable fashion.
How, you ask? Defense and depth. Our defensive effort and focus was great for 90% of the game, and two substitutes (Trocha and Starks) were our most impactful offensive players.
Let’s break it down.
Basketball and Naps
The first half was... not great basketball. Our first clue was the 3-2 scoreline at the first media break. Our second clue was all of the basketball after the first clue.
In a theme that would repeat itself throughout the evening, most of our smooth stretches came through either Tonny Trocha (14 points, leading all scorers) or TJ Starks (11 points). Both guys were excellent off the bench all day, and they made their impact early.
Poor Mizzou just couldn’t buy a bucket, and we came away at halftime feeling like a comfortable victory was in the cards.
Halftime Score: Texas A&M 29, Missouri 20
Call and Response
Mizzou, to their credit, came out and smacked us around to start the second half. Their early 11-2 run completely flipped the energy in the building, and our usually reliable crop of starting guards couldn’t really respond.
Once again, enter Tonny and TJ.
Starks and Trocha were responsible for 11 of 13 points during the stretch that restored order to our universe, and Mizzou never really threatened beyond that point.
Final Score: Texas A&M 60, Missouri 49
- We’ve already talked at length about Tonny’s impact on the game. But I do want to bring up one quick story, and it’s the sort of thing you can’t see on TV: After his second consecutive three to push the lead to 17-8, he gave his guy a forearm shiver and stayed in his ear all the way back to the defensive end. The gist was pretty clear - y’all can’t leave me open today.
- Starks’ aggression was a complete game changer off the bench, and it makes the ‘reserve guard’ discussion even trickier than it was a week ago. It’s pretty clear that we don’t have enough minutes for Chandler, Caldwell, and Starks; and I’m starting to wonder if we purposefully sit one of the three down every night.
- Williams (13 points; 9 rebounds) was effective again today, and we’re now working on a stretch of two straight games where he’s back to his normal self. It’s still not consistent, but it’s a far cry from the invisible efforts he submitted a few weeks ago.
- I did come away impressed with Missouri’s big men. Davis and Williams got backed down to the rim on multiple occasions, and that doesn’t happen often. I’m a little worried about the return trip to Columbia later this year.
- There were multiple possessions where Mizzou never really sniffed the inside of the three point line. The surprisingly large crowd really fed off of that and dug in during the larger possessions late in the second half. The end result was a great atmosphere.
Next up is our return trip to Baton Rouge on Tuesday night at 8:00 pm (ESPNU)