Monday, January 23, 2006

Biggest & Best Win Of The Season - Iowa State

There was no way the basketball Gods were going to be that cruel.

The Aggies got a much needed split on the road and are now home for KU on Wednesday (7:00 / FSNH) in what will be the biggest game of the season so far.

So many things finally went right for the Aggies, I don't know where to start, but you know it's big when the phone doesn't stop buzzing from all the calls and text messages flying back-and-forth after that game.

Good stuff.

Coach G called timeout with 0:33 after a big shot by AK (see below) to set up the foul and take Walker/Pompey/Bennett out of the game in favor of White/Carter/Jones - FINALLY a shooters lineup with the game on the line.

ISU chose not to account for Red and he made 'em pay and very well may have just saved the season for Old Army. Kenneth "Red" White stepped up in dramatic fashion and knocked down the biggest shot of his career as the clock was winding down in regulation to keep the Aggies alive in Ames. As the point man on top of the ISU zone, Curtis Stinson trailed Acie Law away from the ball leaving Red WAO (wide a*s open) for a game-tying 3 point shot. A clutch basket that finally fell for the good guys with 15 seconds to play.

ISU had a good look at the buzzer, but it just didn't fall.

Why was Red WAO? Because the guy playing the left side in the ISU zone was out on Carter who was also in position to jack up a 3 ball. There is no way they would have accounted for Pompey like they did Carter if he would have been on the floor. Great move by Coach G.

Most everyone will remember Red's tying shot or he and Carter going "bucket-stop-bucket" with a pair of 3's in overtime that helped seal the deal, but the biggest shot of the game in my opinion was when Kavaliauskas threw in the baseline jumper from about 10 feet with 33 seconds left to get the Aggies within 2 at 70-72.

They then fouled Rahshon Clark who only made one of two free throws to set up Red's big shot that tied it at 73. (Red also grabbed the rebound after the Clark miss...)

Speaking of Kavaliauskas, he easily had his best game as an Aggie going 7 for 10 and 15 points in 29 quality minutes. Hopefully this was a coming out party and not a flash in the pan game for the big guy. Having someone else inside to make defenses account for and to take pressure off of Joe could go a long way from here on out.

It was becoming pretty clear that the gameplan against the Aggies was to throw a zone at them, shut down Jones and let Law get his.

The rotations on Saturday were so much better than in the past couple of games. A&M went on a 15-5 run (including 9-0) early in the second half with Jones and Kavaliauskas inside and Smith/Carter/Law playing outside. The 10 minute stretch with those 5 on the court was the best 10 minutes of ball they have played in some time. That was a ton of fun to watch as those guys are easily amongst the most athletic guys on the team.

More AK and Bennett - Less Walker and Pompey!!!!

Welcome back Eddie Smith - it was good to see you.

Josh Carter struggled with his shot again by going 3 of 8 on the day, but he had two 3's that were big. One in the middle of the 15-5 run to get back in the game and one in overtime that tied the game. From that basket on, they never looked back and took the lead for good when Red hit a 3 on the back end of the before mentioned "B-S-B".

Carter has struggled with his shot through 4 games in a row now, but it's good to see the coaches not lose faith in him. It's pretty clear I'm a big homer when it comes to this kid, but I was glad to see him keep on shooting. Possible man-crush?

Acie and Joe both had good days, very quietly - Acie had 17 on 6 of 9 shooting and chipped in 6 assists. Joe 17 points and 10 boards. He also shot the ball better going 6 of 11. Acie didn't shot the ball as much, but then again, he didn't need to.

As a team, they finally broke out of their shooting slump by shooting 58% on the day - 32 makes on 55 shots. They continued to struggle from the charity stripe however, only making 13 out of 23 (56.5%). The biggest thing was that they made them when they needed them, including 4 in a row over the last 0:24 of overtime.

We said we needed a split last week and we got just that - this sets the table for a HUGE game at Reed against the surging Jayhawks on Wednesday.

KU is coming off of a 96-54 beatdown of Nebraska in Lawrence on Saturday. KU shot 72% in the first half and 60% on the game including 11 of 18 from behind the arc.

One of the toughest things in hoops is to shoot the ball well in back-to-back games.

Advantage Aggies?

Let's hope so.

If you can find a way to take down one of the best programs in the country on Wednesday you set yourself up for a stretch that could see you win 6 out of 8.

Wins over ISU and Kansas leads the way for games vs. Baylor (W), @ OU (L?) and @Texas (L), then back home for Colorado (W?) and OSU (W?) and finally @ Baylor (W?).

The two games at OU and at Texas are easily two of their three toughest games left, the other being UT in College Station. If you can go on a little run here and protect your home court - you could be 7-5 going into your final 4 games.

I don't want to get too far ahead of myself here and get too excited about what happened last Saturday, but it sure does set up nicely for the Aggies.

We need to remind ourselves that this is A&M sports we're dealing with here. We are all used to tons of promise and tons of disappointment.

I hope Reed is packed on Wednesday - the students are organizing a "white out" at Reed by encouraging everyone to wear white to the game - should look cool on TV if they pull it off.

I hope the students roll out and make it as tough as possible on KU.

Thanks for stopping by.

As you were.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

How to get back on track? - KSU

3 straight losses by a combined 7 points. I don't know what else to say other than this is getting pretty tough.

There are two thoughts (one good, one bad) bouncing around in my mind this

1.) They are just in a funk right now where they can't score the basketball and it's contagious thus affecting the entire team (outside of Acie Law).

They are a combined 35 out of 97 from the field in their last two games.

Take Acie's production out of that (16 of 31) and you get 19 of 66 or .288 from the rest of the guys.


You simply can not win games shooting .361 from the floor (as a contrast they shot 52% at OSU and 42% vs. Tech).

Surely it can't get any worse, right?

Surely Josh Carter is going to break out of his current 5 of 19 slump, right?

Big Joe can't go 2-10 every night, can he?

Break out of it, go on a little bit of a roll, build some momentum toward a strong late-season kick.

That's good.

2.) Are we at a point where "what you see is what you get"?

I sure hope not.

It's going to be a long couple of months if this is all the 05-06 Aggies have to offer.

If teams are going to double down on or throw a zone at Joe and let Acie get his with no additional support, they may not win but 5 conference games all year.

I never thought they would go 11-5 in the league, but I certainly felt an 8-8 repeat was very achievable.

If things don't change in the next 3 or 4 games, this may be all we see from here on out.

That's bad.

I am taping the game replay today and will watch it later, but from what I've read this morning it looks like last night was just more of the same.

Only 6 guys scored - that included Walker with 4, Kirk with 3 and Kavaliauskas with 2. You really only had meaningful production from 1 guy. Mr. Law (or is it Mr. Law IV?) who pitched in 28 last night and is averaging 24.5 in league play.

There is no doubt that he has been far better than expected this year. I hope it doesn't go to waste by racking up a bunch of losses. He may challenge for the league scoring title when it is all said and done.

The rotations looked a little more consistent last night with Carter and Kirk playing a combined 50 minutes. One thing that did look out of whack is that Pompey only played 7 minutes (Bennett and AK logged more time with 12 and 18 respectively) and Walker played 33 minutes.

Is Chris Walker really a 33 minute per game guy at the D1 level in a big time conference?

I was hoping for more Bennett and AK in favor of Walker, not in favor of Pompey. I did like seeing the 3 guard rotation of Law/Carter/Kirk starting to take shape.

Let's see if he sticks with it.

Eddie Smith? Hello? Junior College Player of the Year - Edddddddieeee? Are you there? Are you injured? Do you have bird flu? He didn't touch the floor last night. Strange.

Here is the deal - until this team starts to shoot the ball better as a collective group - it's going to be a tough row to hoe - plain and simple.

I said on Tuesday it was a must that they split the road games this week and I stand by that statement. A win at ISU on Saturday (ESPN+/Ch. 51 at 12:30) would be HUGE with Kansas coming into Reed next Wednesday.

Carry on.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Yet Another Bad Beat - OU (1)

I could go on and on dropping many not-so-clever sports cliches on you at this point, but I'll save both of us the time.

For the 2nd game in a row the good guys needed one more bucket or one more stop, neither of which they could get done.

They are 5 points away from being 3-0 in the league and 13-1 overall and in all likelihood ranked as of this morning. Instead they are scrapping from here on out to keep post season hopes alive. Coming from 0-16 only two seasons ago, it's a nice problem to have though.

A&M went 5 minutes in the 2nd half without a point as OU's zone defense really frustrated A&M's offense. This was the case all day long as the Aggies only shot a season low 37% from the field.

I was glad to see Josh Carter play 27 minutes. It was strange that after playing so much in Stillwater on Wednesday that Red White didn't even touch the floor against OU. It was also good to see Martellus come in and throw his weight around for nearly 10 minutes. He however took one ill-advised shot and didn't see the floor again.

Why were Pompey and Walker on the floor for the last possession for the second game in a row?

They are at K-State tomorrow (Fox Sports - 7:00) and at Iowa State on Saturday (ESPN+/Ch. 51 in Houston at 12:30).

If they have any hope of making the tournament as an at-large team they must split their games (worst case) this week.

Carry on.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bad Beat - OSU (1)

The bottom line is that the loss to OSU may have cost the Aggies a 5-0 start to conference play. OSU has not been this vulnerable in the last 5 years and they will not be this vulnerable in the next 5 years. They are loaded with freshman and were without two starters last night, Dove (easily their best defender) and Monds (a 10 & 6 guy), both of whom will be back by Feb. 11th when the Cowboys come into Reed for a payback game.

A win last night would have catapulted Old Army firmly into the top half of the league and would have been a MAJOR step after last year's resurgence.

Big Joe was awesome and Acie easily had his best game as an Aggie. Law was simply amazing last night and couldn't miss. Most everyone will look at his 35 points, but did you know he parlayed that with 7 steals? He was getting it done on both ends of the floor.

Big Joe is a beast and they did a great job of getting him the ball down low when he was behind the defense.

JamesOn Curry will not see a better man-up defender than DoMinique Krik all season long.

There are a handful of momentum changing plays and calls that we could talk about that caused them to leave Stillwater without the win, but at the end of the day, they needed one more bucket or one more stop. The great thing about Basketball (as opposed to football) is that one loss does not de-rail your season. Still plenty of games they can steal along the way.

I told you guys on Monday that they have to find a 3rd scorer to win games and that was never more evident than last night. Joe and Acie accounted for 62 of the team's 75 points. That simply will not work over the long term in a league as tough as the Big 12.

Dominique Kirk played 30 minutes and only took 2 shots (a missed layup and one 3 point attempt). Josh Carter only played 6 minutes and took one shot. Carter is your best pure shooter and he was on the bench for the last possession while your two worst shooters (Pompey and Walker) were on the floor.

Everyone knew Law was going to take the last shot, but at least have guys on the floor that OSU would have to consider guarding. There is no reason to cover Pompey and Walker and that allowed OSU to double both Joe and Acie.

Oh well (See note below on Gillispie).

You can't help but think that there has to be something going on behind the scenes with Carter for him to only get 6 minutes while Kenneth (Red) White played 15 minutes (most of which were in the second half). At this point your guess is as good as mine. The only thing I can think of is that Red can probably give you a little more defensively than Carter. Gillispie is a great ball coach and we pay him a lot of money to make those decisions. I guarantee you he knows better than you and I.

We will now see how they respond on Saturday when OU comes to town (1:00 ESPN2 - national broadcast again!). If they focus on the positives from last night and continue to work hard this week in practice, they can undoubtedly beat the reeling Sooners.

The students are back in class next week and I hope those that are back in town will roll out on Saturday. When Reed is packed and rockin' it can be a tough place to play.

The team responded nicely after their loss at Pacific to come home and beat Tech. Hopefully we will see more of the same on Saturday.

After their 0-2 start I would look for OU to come in wounded and hungry, desperate to get a win. They will bring their "A" game, no doubt.

One thing to keep an eye on is OU superstar Taj Gray. He re-aggrivated his back in pre-game warmups vs. Missouri on Tuesday and played in obvious pain all night. It would be a huge boost for the good guys if he can't go or is limited.

I hope Joe and Pompey can stay out of foul trouble trying to keep up with Gray and Bookout.

If the Aggies are able to come away with a win on Saturday they will be 2-1 in the league and considering the 3 opponents so far, you have to say that you'd take it.

Go split at K-State and at Iowa State next week and you are 3-2 when Kansas comes to town.

As you were.


Monday, January 09, 2006

What I Learned - Texas Tech (1)

Here is what I learned on Saturday against Tech.

(Brandon, Dustin, Bryan - If you learned something different please add or revise).

(If you guys that were able to watch on TV learned something else, please chime in.)

First things first - BG is a master at half-time adjustments/motivation.

This was truly a game of contrasting halves.

Tech could not miss in the first half (14-23) and A&M could not make (10-32). Many of A&M's buckets were point blank or wide-open jumpers, they just simply weren't falling. Quite a bit of Tech's early success was on Acie Law - he came out with his head so far up his rump, he couldn't guard anyone. He was getting killed on both ends of the floor. Jackson and Zeno were running circles around him and knocking down wide open, uncontested shots.

After trailing 18-4 at one point, Old Army was lucky to be down 9 at the half.

The second half was a different story as Law lead an amazing comeback that featured a 15-2 run out of the locker room to turn a 9 point deficit into a 4 point lead. A&M went 14-24 from the field in the second half while holding Tech to only 4 field goals over the final 20 minuets on 4 of 16 shooting.

Their suffocating defense was off the charts and it looks as if that may be the staple of this team's success. It ain't pretty, but man is it effective.

The biggest question mark on this team is clearly "Who else besides Law and Jones is going to score the basketball?".

In my opinion it is going to have to come from Kirk and/or Carter.

Josh Carter does nothing but impress me with his silky-smooth shot as a true freshman. Not only did he hit a crucial 3 right before the half that really turned the tide of this game, he goes on to shoot 5 of 10 for 13 points all the while committing zero turnovers and playing great defense.

Kirk was 0-5 before hitting three huge 3's, all in the second half, two of which were key in the middle of the big 15-2 run.

Through the first 11 games this year, Josh Carter was averaging just under 6 shots a game. This was amazing to me as he is your 3rd or 4th best scoring option and in my opinion needs to be getting 8 to 10+ shots up a game.

If he and Dominique Kirk combined are getting up 13+ shots a game and combining to average 20+ points a game, they are going to win a few more games in conference play than you may think.

The biggest problem is that there are still so many times down the floor where they don't ever look to shoot, it's very bizarre. My guess is that it must just be what specific plays or options they have called on the offensive end of the floor. Some of Kirk and Carter's success in the 2nd half was generated from Acie going to the lane and kicking it out.

Martellus? anyone, anyone? He didn't touch the floor in the 2nd half.

I was also none to pleased to see Chris Walker get the start. My regular starters would be Pompey and Jones inside with Law, Krik and Carter on the perimeter. Off the bench would be Kavaliauskas, Bennett, Smith, White, & Walker (as needed, in that order). Bennett may be in the starting lineup for Pompey by year's end depending on how many more minutes he can get.

I understand starting Walker against Tech because of Tech's size, but "Crazy Arms" Carter can effectively guard guys much bigger than his 6'5" frame.

The other crazy thing about Saturday was that Big Jo was basically a non-factor the entire game due to foul trouble (some calls were warranted, some not).

The bottom line is that this was a HUGE win with your best player on the bench nearly the whole game.

We'll find out more on Wednesday (7:00 ESPN2) when they head to Stillwater to take on the young, but athletic Cowboys. This may be one they can steal that I have had chalked up as an automatic "L" from the beginning. It all depends on what OSU team shows up to play (Wins over Tennessee, UNLV & Pepperdine or Losses to NW State, UAB and Missouri). They are also the same team that lost to Gonzaga on the road by an Adam Morrison 3 at the buzzer.

After Wednesday they are home for Oklahoma on Saturday (1:00 on ESPN2 again). I also had OU down as a "L" also, but they just lost to Nebraska in Lincoln and appear to be WAY overrated from their pre-season #6 rating.

If you can somehow find a way to go 2-1 out of those first 3 games, you will be sitting pretty before heading out on the road to K-Sate and Iowa State in back-to-back games.

That is all for now.

Carry on.