Unlike our home opening win over New Orleans, these victories were tougher to come by. Let’s take a closer look at a tumultous, although ultimately successful, week of basketball.
Texas A&M 73, Tarleton State 66
Before we hit the game action, we have to address the obvious — this was Billy Gillispie’s return to Reed Arena, and it was a shame it had to happen under these circumstances. He deserved a packed house and a standing ovation... but that’s not what 2020 has in store.
As for the game, it was a beating to sift through. We opened with ten consecutive missed shots, and our opponents chipped in with a 2-14 slump of their own... leading to six TOTAL points (a Tarleton 4-2 lead) after eight minutes of basketball. It did get better, but that’s mostly because it had to. Both squads hit shots at a reasonable clip to close the half, which ended with a 26-24 advantage for Tarleton State.
The Aggies opened the second half uncharacteristically slowly, allowing the Texans to open a 10 point lead with 13 minutes remaining. To our credit we finally snapped to and realized that defeat was a very real possibility, responding with a 13-2 run that calmed the game down approaching the stretch. Tarleton kept things interesting approaching the five minute mark, but our size keyed a 15-2 run to close the game and avoid an embarassing defeat.
This was a carbon copy of the New Orleans game flow... only we waited 30 minutes (instead of 10) to hit the accelerator. Better late than never, but make no mistake — this effort loses any SEC game by double digits.
- Savion Flagg had 21 points and 9 rebounds in 37 very efficient minutes
- Emanuel Miller made his season debut with 23 points and 10 rebounds
- We closed the gap with an insane stretch (19-21) of free throw shooting
A lot of the figurative fists that were thrown our way tonight will be really healthy for us. They [Tarleton State] competed much harder. Our kids are aware of that. They were much more competitive per possession on both ends of the floor than we were. So, if we can learn this lesson in game two against Tarleton, as opposed to losing three in a row in Orlando last year, then it was a good investment of our time and for our game. I hope going forward, if we learn the lessons from tonight that it was worth all the stress we went through.
Obviously, I’ve never competed against Coach [Gillespie] or coached a game against him. I’ve only worked for coach. I don’t want any of this to be about me, and I have so much respect for him as a coach given my relationship with him. Coach [Lonn] Reisman, who was the long-time coach at Tarleton, now the Athletic Director, has known me since I was a manager at Navarro College. So, it was really unique getting to talk to them. I made sure to get a picture with them and some of the members of our 2006 recruiting class here at A&M, so there were a lot of special moments tonight.
You could argue that these two games have been the best games that Savion [Flagg] has had for us in terms of production, but if we didn’t have E-man [Emanuel Miller] back tonight, we would not have won. He could have played on Sunday, but he wasn’t quite 100 percent. His spirit is what he does best. He plays incredibly hard. We didn’t have to shut him down, and he was a bit upset with me. But I believe it was the right play, not only for this game but long term as well.
It was great walking out there. I saw a lot of people, and there were a lot of nice things said. But, when the ball is tipped up at the start of the game, all of that left my mind. It’s about the competition and nothing else matters at that point. I would’ve given anything for this to have been a normal game, because this place [Reed Arena] would have been filled up and it would have been a joy to see, because that’s exactly how we left it. It was an emotional game.
Texas A&M 81, UT Rio Grande Valley 68
We hit some shots to start a game! It’s a bold move, and one we hadn’t tried yet this season, but the early returns are promising. Our FG% hovered around (or above) 60% for the majority of the first half, and we never really allowed UT-RGV to find a foothold early. We maintained a (mostly) double digit advantage and cruised to a 43-32 halftime score.
Unlike our prior game, there was no letdown coming out of the gate. We maintained our ten point lead, and we eventually sprinted away on the back of a seven minute stretch where we only allowed one field goal. We pushed the lead as high as 20 during that process, and we never looked back.
Coast-to-coast. Another clunker (even in victory) would have been a disturbing trend, and we put that talk to bed with little fuss.
On Wednesday, I didn’t think we played near as hard as we have to play. So, I thought our competitiveness and the spirit with which we fought was much better today relative to Wednesday. I think it’s encouraging that we’re going back in the right direction, but in truth we’re going to have to continue to build off of that. We’re going to have to play incredibly hard to have a chance, and while we were much better in that category, we weren’t consistent enough. The effort was much better today than it was on Wednesday though.
- Come on down, Andre Gordon! Gordon had 18 points and 5 assists (with no TO’s) on 8-11 shooting. A strong response to a less than stellar performance mid-week.
- Welcome to the party, Kevin Marfo! Marfo saw extended action for the first time this season, starting and grabbing 9 rebounds in 19 minutes.
- Emannuel Miller continued his strong start to the season, notching his second double-double (21 points and 10 boards) of the early campaign.
Next up is a tricky road trip to Fort Worth for a Saturday afternoon date with the 4-1 Horned Frogs