Texas A&M-Auburn Preview
Texas A&M is nearing its first regular-season conference title in 30 years and can boost its chances with another road victory against one of the SEC's bottom feeders.
The 20th-ranked Aggies look to move a step closer to the crown Tuesday night against Auburn.
Texas A&M (22-7, 11-5) moved into a tie for first place with No. 22 Kentucky with its fourth consecutive win, 84-69 at Missouri, coupled with the Wildcats' 74-62 defeat at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
The Aggies face Vandy in their regular-season finale Saturday in what could be one of their most anticipated home games in years. However, Texas A&M could clinch a share of the title with a victory over Auburn (11-17, 5-11), the next-to-last team in the SEC, along with a Kentucky loss at Florida on Tuesday.
Texas A&M snapped a four-game road losing streak by topping the league's last-place squad this past weekend. That win put the Aggies in position for their first regular-season title since 1986 in the Southwest Conference. They won an SWC tournament crown in 1987.
"It would be tremendous for us. We have not won a team SEC Championship in men's sports yet, but just to be the first since we have been in the league would be impressive," coach Billy Kennedy said. "We talked about this at the beginning of the year. We have had things in front of us that these guys have bought in to."
Texas A&M has won three straight at Auburn and won two of three matchups last season, suffering the defeat in the conference tournament.
The Tigers have split four games since a season-high seven consecutive defeats and snapped a four-game home slide with an 84-81 win over Georgia on Wednesday. They failed to build on that victory Saturday, falling 65-57 at Alabama.
T.J. Lang was held to two points after scoring a career-high 21 against Georgia. Second-leading scorer Tyler Harris, averaging 13.7 points, had seven in his return from a one-game absence due to a concussion.
Auburn also went 12 of 27 from the free-throw line - its worst performance in SEC play - and committed 18 turnovers.
"Too many turnovers, too many missed free throws. We didn't make enough plays down the stretch, and Alabama did," coach Bruce Pearl said.
The Tigers knocked off then-No. 14 Kentucky 75-70 at home Feb. 20 in their most recent matchup with a ranked team, ending a 22-game losing streak to Top 25 opponents that dated to the start of the 2009-10 season.
Leading scorer Kareem Canty (18.3 ppg) had 26 points in that game but left the program Feb. 12 after declaring for the NBA draft.
Texas A&M's second-leading scorer Danuel House (15.4 ppg) had 22 points and went 6 of 7 from 3-point range in last season's visit to Auburn. The Aggies' top scorer, meanwhile, has proved inconsistent of late.
Jalen Jones had 20 points against Missouri and 24 in an overtime win against Kentucky on Feb. 20, but has also been limited to six in two of his past four contests.
Jones had five points in last season's conference tournament loss to the Tigers after combining for 32 in the first two meetings.
Auburn is the SEC's worst defensive team, giving up 77.3 points per game, while Texas A&M is the stingiest (65.9).