With a host of persistent questions lingering after a poor showing in Myrtle Beach, the Aggie men’s basketball team traveled to Chicago to play the DePaul Blue Demons on the day after Thanksgiving. Buzz Williams’s A&M squad resoundingly answered those doubts by handily dispatching the Blue Demons, 82-66. It was clear that the Aggie coaching staff challenged their three core players, Tyrece Radford, Wade Taylor, and Henry Coleman, after lackluster showings against Murray State, Colorado, and Loyola. The trio responded accordingly in Chicago, dismantling a seasoned Big East squad.
The Aggies deployed a new starting lineup combination in this one, with Radford, Coleman, Dexter Dennis, Andre Gordon, and Andersson Garcia getting the nod. A&M picked up the initial lead in their first possession of the game on a Boots Radford three pointer and never relinquished the advantage for the remainder of the contest. The Ags opened up a nine-point lead just over 8 minutes into the game after a Wade Taylor steal led to a Radford breakaway dunk. A&M continued to maintain a healthy lead that grew to as many as 13 points, and took a 38-27 advantage into the break.
The Aggies continued to pull away in the second half, growing the lead to as many as 20 points with just over 5 minutes remaining and was in complete control the rest of the way. The Ags ramped up their perimeter pressure, hassling DePaul into 16 turnovers. They also clearly placed a heavy emphasis in closing out shooters, keeping hands in the shooter’s face to limit the Demons to 33.9% from the floor in their own gym. The Aggies hit a respectable 25 of their 55 field goal attempts, good enough for 45.5%. A&M was only 7-for-21 from deep, but the Ags controlled the game from the free throw line, hitting 25 of 31 attempts (80.6%). This was crucial, as the two teams combined for 47 fouls called and 58 free throw attempts.
The aforementioned Radford was the star of the show. Boots was electric with the ball in his hands, going 8-of-11 from the floor, 4-of-5 from beyond the arc, and 11-of-13 from the line for a career high 31 points. He also chipped in 5 boards, a block, and a steal for good measure. Wade Taylor didn’t look hindered in his new role, going off for 21 points, 5 assists, and 6 steals. In addition to coming off the bench, Taylor was used more in an off-ball capacity rather than his typical point guard role. This allowed the offense to flow more openly and created new angles of attack for Wade, who went 7-of-14 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the line. Henry Coleman added 12 points of his own to go with 6 assists and 3 rebounds. Coleman’s 6 assists showcased his athleticism and vision as he was beating his defender, drawing rotations, and finding the open man.
The Radford-Wade-Coleman trio combined for 64 of A&M’s 82 points. I wouldn’t expect such a concentrated scoring distribution as the Aggies’ new recipe for success in the future, but it is nice to see that those three can step up and dictate the game when necessary.
Next up for the Aggies is a Wednesday night home matchup against SMU at 7:00 PM from Reed Arena. The Mustangs are still trying to find their footing in their first year under Rob Lanier, who took over after Tim Jankovich retired at the end of last season. They currently sit at 3-3 with wins over Texas A&M-Commerce, Evansville, and Lamar and losses to Dayton, New Mexico, and Louisiana-Lafayette.