After a seemingly interminable pause that represented just the latest twist in a strange, unpredictable season, Wednesday night was Senior Night at Reed Arena. It was one final opportunity to honor four key contributors who have each made significant impacts on Aggie basketball and have helped build a foundation for Buzz Williams to return the program to the national stage. Jay Jay Chandler, Savion Flagg, Quenton Jackson, and Kevin Marfo were honored in pregame ceremonies, and they hoped to give the sparse home crowd one last victory, but their efforts came up short in a 63-57 loss against Mississippi State.
The matchup with Ben Howland’s Bulldogs was the Aggies’ first game action in 32 days, a COVID- induced layoff that included a 28 day stretch where the team didn’t conduct a single practice with the full roster.
The Aggies came out with tremendous defensive intensity, forcing a shot clock violation on Mississippi State’s first possession. Chandler opened the scoring for Texas A&M on a put-back, and that was followed by a Quenton Jackson stepback three to give the Aggies an early 5-0 lead. Emanuel Miller led the Aggies on an 11-2 run in a three-minute stretch that gave them an 18-8 lead in the early going, but Mississippi State countered with a run of its own to even the score at 18-18 with nine minutes remaining. Texas A&M picked up 4 steals and capitalized on 10 Bulldog turnovers to counter a hot shooting start for Iverson Molinar and D.J. Stewart Jr., opening up a 29-33 halftime lead.
Halftime score: Mississippi State 29, Texas A&M 33
Both teams exchanged baskets for the initial seven minutes of the second half. The momentum began to shift in Mississippi State’s favor when Stewart hit a transition three, closing the gap to 1. The Bulldogs would take the lead on their next possession with another triple. After Miller missed a layup, Stewart hit the Bulldogs’ third consecutive three pointer. Gordon, who struggled offensively with an 0-11 shooting performance, missed a floater in the lane, and MSU’s big man Quentin Post countered with a jumper at the top of the lane, capping an 11-0 run in just 2:14. Quenton Jackson’s transition steal and dunk stopped the bleeding, but the damage was done as the Bulldogs wouldn’t relinquish their lead for the remainder of the game.
The Aggies’ recurring offensive struggles hampered their efforts down the stretch as crucial wide-open misses from Flagg, Gordon, Miller, and Chandler left the team unable to take the lead. A pair of Miller free throws would close the deficit to four points with just 1:24 to play, but cold shooting and an inability to create opportunities in the half-court offense doomed the chances of a comeback, sending the Bulldogs home to Starkville with the six-point victory.
Final Score: Mississippi State 63, Texas A&M 57
There were bright spots in the loss. Defensively, the Aggies used their defense to create offensive opportunities, coming away with nine steals and creating 17 turnovers. This led to a 21-3 edge in points off turnovers and a 16-3 lead in fast break points that inevitably kept Texas A&M in the game. On top of that, the Aggies limited themselves to 5 total turnovers for the entire game, something that Buzz indicated was a strong point of emphasis for the team in both pregame and postgame interviews. Emanuel Miller returned to form with a 24 point, 13 rebound performance. Quenton Jackson and Savion Flagg finished with 13 points and 12 points, respectively. However, the strong showing from Miller was offset by the team’s dismal 31.9% field goal percentage, including 16% from behind the arc.
The Aggies traveled to Fayetteville to take on the Eric Musselman’s #12 Razorbacks on Saturday afternoon, their final regular season showdown before heading to Nashville for the SEC Tournament next week.