Tough Loss to LSU Leads to Promising Potential For Future
COLLEGE STATION - If you asked the Texas A&M men's basketball team about their season in the Southeastern Conference, they wouldn't feel confident. Following their 19-point victory over Vanderbilt, that would be the final time they'd be favor in a matchup this week.
A close game at Reed Arena should bring promise to the future of Buzz Williams' program. After all, the team wasn't expected to contend against LSU after being a six-point underdog. Regulation time wouldn't be enough as the Aggies would need overtime to decide the outcome.
In the end, early shooting from the Tigers led to a crushing defeat at home in overtime, 89-85.
“Honestly, right now in the locker room, we were a little bit down because we really felt like we let that one get away,” senior forward John Nebo said. “We know we fought really hard, but we are down about how we let this one slip away.”
Everything is about improvement in the first season under Williams. With each program since his time in New Orleans, the Aggies' first-year coach has transformed the program into a contender within two years. A&M (8-7, 2-2 SEC) could be in the running for similar results after their production in the second against Will Wade's dangerous defense.
The Aggies climbed back from a 16-point deficit heading into the final minutes of the second half. The team would lead by six with two minutes remaining after an Andre Gordon 3-pointer with an assist from Savion Flagg.
A turnover from Jay Jay Chandler led to back to back 3-pointers from Marshall Graves and Javonte Smart would tie the game at 79 with just over a minute to play. Tigers' star guard Skylar Mays led the way with 19 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks. Fellow guard Trendon Watford would score 19 as well.
Nebo led the Aggies in scoring with 20 points. Gordon continued to improve with his accuracy, scoring 17 points in 40 minutes of play. Flagg scored 16 while Chandler and Wendall Mitchell tallied 21 combined points.
The Aggies, who currently sit as the nation's worst 3-point shooting roster, scored a season-high 40% behind the arc.
"I don't think if you look at our guys that if you were an evaluator, you would necessarily deem our guard's great shooters, I'm not saying that but I don't know that you would necessarily say we're the worst in the country either," Williams said. "I think some of it has probably been shot selection and we've kind of gotten better at that."
There's still room for improvement, but A&M continued to show growth. The team scored a season-high on the assist-to-turnover ratio of the season at 15-to-7. They struggled at the free-throw line, shooting 15 of 23 from the foul line and being outrebounded 48-32.
But the Aggies sit at .500 in conference play. There's little to complain about after forcing one of the nation's top teams in extra play late. Looking like a tough out weekly, Williams knows a tough loss could only lead to stronger success heading deeper into conference play.
"A lot of what we did was good, and it's such a thin line between winning and losing at any level," Williams said. "We have a lot to overcome, and we've made such great strides. In many respects, as far as the strides we're trying to take, we did that."
The Aggies will have several days to recuperate before hosting South Carolina this weekend. Tipoff will take place at Noon on Saturday, January 18, at Reed Arena.