Texas A&M basketball ended 5 years of futility against the LSU Tigers with a 69-56 win on Saturday evening at Reed Arena. The 13-point victory moved the Aggies to 2-0 in SEC play and 10-5 overall. While the Ags have been led by Tyrece Radford and Wade Taylor this year, transfers Julius Marble and Dexter Dennis were the driving force in this game. Marble finished with 17 points for the second consecutive game and added 9 boards, while Dennis also finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals.
The opening eight minutes were back and forth, but neither team looked particularly crisp. LSU looked like the better team early with good ball movement that led to open shots, but the shots wouldn’t fall for the Tigers, who were 4-for-12 from the floor at the second media timeout. The Ags relied on a pair of triples from Dennis and free throws to build a 3 point lead, but it was an authoritative Dexter Dennis transition slam off of a steal that seemed to energize the home team.
After the Dennis slam, A&M seemed to settle into a better defensive rotation that limited the Tigers’ open looks while also controlling the boards. The Aggies opened up a double-digit lead with just under four minutes until halftime and took a 34-32 advantage into the break.
The game was never in doubt in the second half as the Aggies opened the lead up to 15 just after halftime. LSU responded by narrowing the gap to 9 with 14:30 to play, but a Henry Coleman dunk curtailed the Tiger charge. The lead would never get back to double digits, reaching as high as 17 points for A&M. Buzz Williams’s Aggies continued to attack the interior for high percentage buckets and trips to the free thrown line down the stretch,
Radford and Taylor joined Marble and Dennis in double figures, scoring 14 and 13 respectively. A&M overpowered the Tigers on the boards, 38-27, and outshot the visitors, 48.1% to 34.47%. The Aggies “only” attempted 19 free throws and hit 13 of those attempts. An interesting side note from the game - A&M is 3rd nationally in free throw attempts as 26 per game and second nationally in made free throws with 19 per game. It’s a remarkable combination of stats for a team that is only shooting 73.1% from the line, good for 119th nationally.
One item of note was the A&M rotation on Saturday night. Only 10 Aggies saw the floor and only 7 of those played double digit minutes. It was a surprising change in a 13 point victory that wasn’t in doubt for most of the second half. It will be interesting to see if this was an anomaly or an indicator of a changing approach to managing personnel moving forward.
The Aggies return home on Wednesday night to take on the #20 Missouri Tigers at 7:30 PM. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network. Mizzou is 13-2 on the season and 2-1 in SEC play with notable wins over Illinois and Kentucky. The Tigers’ only losses have come at home against Kansas (95-67) and at Arkansas (74-68). This game presents a solid early test for A&M, and a win could be a significant resume booster in March.