Basketball action! Real live basketball action! Let’s hit the biggest talking points from the final dress rehearsal before Wednesday night’s home opener against Northwestern State.
Early On, The Cavalry Was Needed
Wendell Mitchell, Jay Jay Chandler, and Savion Flagg received starting nods, and Emmanuel Miller replaced the injured Josh Nebo… but the fifth spot went to Mark French, relegating TJ Starks to the bench. This was less about punishing TJ Starks and more about rewarding French for an excellent offseason, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.
As for the game action, the Aggies cruised early, as they were able to consistently turn defense into easy buckets. The offense generated decent looks, and the good times continued when Jackson checked in for Chandler, as he integrated seamlessly with the 1’s.
But then we ran the second unit.
In what would become the theme of the evening, the “Starks and the 2’s” group struggled on both ends of the floor, eventually allowing A&M Kingsville to push their lead to seven. At this point Buzz called in the studs, riding our best lineup of the evening (Starks/Mitchell/Chandler/Flagg/Jackson) to a sorely needed 16-0 run. It was a little sobering to need the starters back in, but it was nice to see them look good.
Halftime Score: Texas A&M 46, Texas A&M Kingsville 34
Finding the Right Balance
The second half felt eerily similar to the first, as the Javelinas continued to trim the gap against our various lineups sans starters. We did finally find some success with the 2’s when we ran Miller and Jackson at the same time, but the starters were once again called into action when A&M Kingsville fired off a 10-0 run. Our 1’s steadied the ship, but the Javelinas caught fire down the stretch and placed the game in doubt with only a minute remaining.
The Possession That Meant Something
We were about to get our first look at the crunch-time lineup, as A&M was up three (with the ball) against a white-hot upset-minded D2 team. Miller replaced Starks (off with a thigh injury), and a somewhat uninspiring offensive possession ensued… until Quentin Jackson flew to the rim and made a really difficult finish in traffic. On a floor full of starters, he had no problem taking the biggest shot of the evening. The rest of the evening was a free throw contest, and the good guys prevailed.
Final Score: Texas A&M 81, Texas A&M Kingsville 74
- We need 3-4 new guys to join the crunch time rotation, and we found our first two. Both Emmanuel Miller and Quentin Jackson were a cut above their fellow new arrivals, and surely cemented their roles.
- TJ Starks split his time playing off ball with the 1’s and running the point with the 2’s, and he didn’t look comfortable in either role. Something to monitor moving forward. (Late note - Starks is confirmed out 2-3 with a leg injury)
- Jonathan Aku will be very good for us in the future… but I found myself hoping Josh Nebo comes back quickly. Aku (who reclassified one year ahead of schedule) might be a little too raw to contribute immediately against SEC front lines.
- Flagg, Mitchell, and Chandler looked good in the new system, which promotes flexibility and off-ball movement without speed-killing passes into the post. When these three were on the court together, we rarely got a bad shot.
- Yavuz Gultekin (offensive awareness) and Andre Gordon (perimeter defense) both showed promising flashes, but I don’t know if they’ll make the cut when the rotation inevitably trims from 10 to 8.
It was nice to get back in the building, it was nice to confirm Buzz wasn’t a mirage on the sidelines, and it was nice to attend an A&M sporting event that didn’t take five hours (shouts to the absolutely brutal CFB TV timeouts).
Stay tuned for the formal season preview, which should drop ahead of this Wednesday’s home opener.
BTHO Northwestern State