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Texas A&M 81, Alabama 80

TJ Starks stole it at the buzzer, and the Aggies will now hit a huge home stretch with a ton of momentum

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

At times, college sports can become too narrative driven. Too wistful. Dreamlike. Focused on the long term. A world where recruiting pipelines, future roster construction, and potential coaching changes overshadow the week-to-week product.

I would suggest that we ignore all of those things, because we just had a really good week of basketball. We had a (much) better effort than expected at Kentucky, and then we capped the weekend with THIS

Box Score

Let’s break it down.

The Josh Nebo Show

We’ve often discussed our big man depth concerns, specifically if one of them had significant foul trouble. That happened yesterday, as Christian Mekowulu was limited to 12 mostly ineffective minutes.

Josh Nebo responded with the best individual game from any Aggie player this season.

He had 21 points on 10-12 shooting, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks in 28 heavy minutes. That effectively means 45 or 50 possessions where he was the only rim protector on the floor, and he did an incredible job while staying out of foul trouble. We would have been truly lost if Nebo had been forced to the bench as well, but he walked the tightrope perfectly.

Kudos on a spectacular afternoon.

Holding Our Nerve Late

We didn’t play particularly well in the first half, we had a couple lulls in the second half, and it’s pretty fair to say that Alabama should have closed the door when given the chance. But we did a great job digging our feet in and forcing them to finish us off.

We hit our free throws all day (22-30; 73%), we took care of the basketball (3 turnovers for the entire game), and we seemed to have an answer every time the Tide threatened to pull away. That resilience kept the game within one possession, and Alabama did not handle that late game pressure well.

That allowed TJ Starks to steal it, and here we are.

Additional Notes

  • Savion Flagg (16 points, 7 rebounds) played well for the fourth consecutive game. His December slide is officially dead and gone. He’s 2nd in the SEC in % of minutes played, yet he commits the 8th fewest fouls. That’s exactly the type of contribution we need.
  • Chuck Mitchell continues to be our only remotely reliable game-to-game outside shooter. 2-6 from beyond the arc is nothing special, but when the rest of the team goes 1-13, you learn to be grateful.
  • Yes, that’s correct, we were 3-19 from 3PT land. Our worst shooting night of the year. OF THE YEAR. Have you guys seen this year? I have no clue how we pulled this off.
  • It’s time to have a slightly different conversation about TJ Starks. He was the hero of the day, and rightfully so, but his numbers didn’t look that great. And I think I’m ok with that. His usage rate is the highest in the SEC by a significant margin and it’s not because he’s being selfish. It’s because he’s our only option to create on non fast break possessions. Even with that expectation, his assist rate is 8th in the SEC, and I think that’s pretty impressive. We ask so much of this guy every single night… I’m glad he got to take a bow.
  • In case you thought we were done bragging about Josh Nebo… we aren’t done. His block rate is 4th in all of D1 basketball (and 1st in the SEC), his FG% is 7th in all of D1 basketball (and 1st in the SEC), and both his offensive AND defensive rebounding rates are Top 11 in the SEC. Dude’s going to mess around and make an All-SEC postseason team if he isn’t careful.

Overall Thoughts

Man, we needed that in the worst way. Look at this celebration.

And y’all, now we’re looking at a stretch where five of our next six games are at Reed Arena. Next up is #11 Auburn at home on Wednesday night.

BTHO Auburn