We held on.
It was ugly, then it was pretty, then it got chippy, and then it got weird.
Ultimately, we held our nerve to finish the SEC regular season at 9-9.
Let’s break it down
A Slow, Slow Start. By Everyone.
The shooting in this half was crap. By contrast the energy level was... well, it was also crap.
Luckily, Alabama complied in both facets, and we were treated to an absolute dud of a half that probably accelerated many of your afternoon nap schedules.
It got better in the second half, but that was mainly because it couldn’t get much worse.
Halftime Score: Alabama 25, Texas A&M 24
The Intensity Returns
We played much, much better to start the 2nd half. Our offensive sets became more controlled, we hit our shots, and for a while it looked like a 3rd straight win was easily in the bag.
But then this happened.
Tyler Davis: old school enforcer pic.twitter.com/6WmPMO57xF— Barstool Texas A&M (@BarstoolTexasAM) March 3, 2018
Yes, that’s a hard foul after the travelling violation. But it was an early whistle, which meant the Alabama player had plenty of time to pull up. He chose to try to dunk it (lame), Davis chose to not allow that (I respect it), and the SEC video review determined that it was an off-ball technical.
An Alabama turnover became two shots and the ball, which stopped our run dead in its tracks. The Tide started to play much better beyond that point, culminating in a 10-0 run, and we had a 54-53 game with four minutes remaining.
Down the Stretch
When we finally arrived at the business end of this basketball game, we started playing great. Hogg opened with a three from a beautiful feed by Jay Jay Chandler, Davis followed with a powerful move for a dunk down low, and a couple of stops made it look like we were going to coast home.
We were not going to coast home.
Why, you ask? Because with :32 seconds remaining, TJ Starks found himself on the receiving end of some Collin Sexton trash talk. Instead of calmly walking away, Starks decided to shove Sexton in the side of the head in clear view of an official. He was ejected, which was 100% the right call, and for a moment we all thought we had gifted Alabama a route back into the game.
But a weird application of rules followed, where Sexton was also T’d up for instigating. Even though he wasn’t ejected, his infraction led to two free throws for A&M. When added to the existing stoppage of play (a foul by Alabama’s John Petty on Gilder), the end result was four free throws for Texas A&M, and two free throws plus possession for Alabama.
If I’m taking my A&M hat off for a second, it didn’t seem fair when comparing the two transgressions.
As we all know, life isn’t always fair in the cauldron of SEC hoops, and we rode our late free throw accuracy (seriously, thank you Admon) to close this game out.
Final Score: Texas A&M 68, Alabama 66
- This might have been the best game of the year for Jay Jay Chandler. The stat line (7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 turnovers) was solid, but more than that... he gave us big minutes. He took the majority of Starks’ time down the stretch, and given the way things broke, he should have taken the rest. Great job by Chandler.
- Davis (20 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, 9-11 FG) was excellent, yet again. He’s a surefire All-SEC postseason selection, and his consistency just might edge him onto the first team. Make no mistake - Tyler Davis kept this season from spiraling out of control.
- This last minute took about 30 minutes of real time due to a handful of SEC reviews that, best I can tell, are thoroughly designed to make sure no one watches SEC basketball again. When everybody meets in the off-season to discuss these things, they need to streamline the “call to a centralized location” nonsense. They’re getting the call right, but it can be done quicker.
- It’s time to talk TJ Starks. His last minute blow-up didn’t happen in a vacuum... it happened because he wasn’t playing very well. He had two points on 1-9 shooting with four turnovers, and he wasn’t on the floor for the big moments. I think we learned a valuable lesson... once you make that “it’s not his day, I’m going in a different direction” call, you can’t put him back in the game. His mental mistake was inexcusable, and for me, it puts his “crunch time PG” position in real jeopardy. I hope he’s ready for an elevated level of trash talk from Sexton on Thursday, because that reaction is the easiest way to make sure that it won’t stop.
- Speaking of Collin Sexton, I really enjoy his game. Particularly the times where he grabs the inbounds pass and decides to score before the opposition realizes the ball is back in play. Everything about his game and his demeanor indicates to me that he’ll stick comfortably at the next level.
- Tonny Trocha got the start on Senior Night, and he played decently enough after a slow start. It was clearly an emotional day for him, with his mother in the stands for the first time in years, but he did a good job managing those emotions in the second half.
It was a season that somehow had everything, yet 9-9 almost seems fitting.
We started with the best non-conference run in program history, we skidded off the road in spectacular fashion en route to 0-5 in conference, and we finished the season 9-4 down the stretch. Not competing for the conference crown with this squad is surely a failure, but plucking the season back from the jaws of death has to be seen as a success.
Ultimately, this season will be remembered by the next two weeks. We have the talent to win any individual game we play (yes, against literally anyone), but I struggle to see us stringing those kind of performances together.
Hopefully we can put some magic together and have some fun this March. But even if we don’t, it’s nice to be part of the conversation again.
Next up is the rubber match against the Crimson Tide in the 2nd round of the SEC Tournament.
One final note on Tonny Trocha before we close the book on the regular season.
We live in an era where guys transfer at the slightest sign of trouble. In that context, Tonny’s story is all the more remarkable. It took him almost two years to qualify, but he never considered leaving. The guy wanted to play here, and he stuck it out to make sure that it happened. His shooting still has the capacity to swing a game, and I’m betting that he has at least one more significant impact before he moves on to the next level.
Thanks for everything, Tonny.