Friday, March 31, 2006

2005-2006 Recap

2005-2006 Season Recap

The 2005-2006 basketball season was without a doubt a magical ride for the Aggies and one that will be remembered for years to come.

At the stroke of midnight on October 15th, 2005 the public got their first look at the 2005/2006 Texas Aggies when “Maroon Madness” took place in front of approximately 30,000 people at Kyle Field.

The basketball practice/exhibition was held in conjunction with that evening’s Midnight Yell Practice. The event currently holds the record for largest crowd to ever attend a basketball Midnight Madness event (even if it was parlayed with a football event).

The biggest question coming out of the 2004/2005 season was who was going to replace Antoine Wright?

Antoine is arguably the most dynamic player to ever lace them up at A&M and the Junior, who left school early, was selected as the 15th overall pick by the New Jersey Nets in the 2005 NBA draft.

“We probably can’t replace Antoine,” Gillispie said. “The best thing he turned into was he was the hardest worker on our team and was the best leader on our team, and those are the things that while it is very difficult to replace 17 or 18 points a game, it's going to be even tougher to replace his leadership and work ethic. I think everyone is just going to have to do a little bit more to piece it together. I don't think we're going to have one player that is going to be able to fill that role.”

Coach Gillispie, ever the teacher, also knew the importance of not letting the departure of Antoine to the NBA or last season’s NIT quarterfinal loss to St. Joe’s linger on his player’s minds.

“I’m really excited because I don’t think anybody has worked harder from the time we lost to St. Joseph’s until now,” Gillispie said. “We’ll possess toughness and we’ll be a very, very close team. We’ve already exhibited those kinds of things. We’ll be better in every phase of the game.”

Exhibition Season

The Aggies rolled through their two exhibition opponents – Arkansas Tech and TAMU-Commerce – by a combined score of 206-126.

The only curious items to come out of these two games was not only the fact that Acie Law (35 points combined) and Joe Jones (61 points combined) were outstanding, but that the next two leading scorers were a true Freshman named Josh Carter and a JUCO transfer named Antanas Kavaliauskas.

Josh Carter hit 7 of his 11 three-point attempts over the two games and AK chipped 9 points against Arkansas Tech and 16 more versus TAMU-Commerce.

Looking back – I find it curious that from the beginning of the season there were two clear superstars and two major role players making major contributions. (More on these guys later.)

November Review - Out Of the Gates

The Aggies came out of the gate swinging - knocking off two SWAC opponents and one team trying to act normal in otherwise unbearable circumstances.

Southern and Mississippi Valley State both proved out to be not much of an upgrade from the Aggies exhibition opponents. Old Army rolled through Southern 88-44 and knocked off MVSU 84-53.

Eddie Smith, the 2005 JUCO Player of the Year, was looking as if he may be a major contributor for the Aggies in putting up 15 points, 5 boards, and 6 assists vs. Southern. Couple that with 9, 3, and 6 against MVSU and Mr. Smith was off to an impressive start.

Possibly the most disappointing thing about this season was the fact that Eddie ran into a nasty ankle injury followed up by a lingering personal situation. These two events led to him never really being a factor in the long run for the Aggies.

At 2-0 the Aggies next played a “road” game at Reed Arena against Tulane – a team displaced by hurricane Katrina.

Behind Joseph Jones’ 20 points and 7 rebounds, the Aggies rolled past the Green Wave 83-57 and were heading into December at 3-0.

December Review – Highs and Lows

The Aggies started off December with their first two “brand name” opponents on the schedule – Penn State and North Texas.

The outcome of both games was probably closer than we all would have liked to see, but they did knock off Penn State by a score of 60-55 and squeaked by UNT at 72-70.

Against North Texas Joseph Jones scored a career-high 35 points and tied his career-best with 13 rebounds.

Coming off of the PSU and UNT lows, the Aggies then called on Grambling and Savannah State to help right the ship.

The good guys steamrolled both opponents in winning by a combined 63 points (101-71 and 67-34) and the wins appeared to be just what the doctor ordered.

Against Grambling, Josh Carter scored a then career-high 20 points, this included 7-of-7 from the field and 5-of-5 from three-point range.

The Savannah State game also came at an opportune time because both Acie (concussion) and Joe (ankle) missed the game due to injuries.

After taking 5 days off, Auburn came calling on Reed Arena and again proved to be another “brand name” opponent that the Aggies struggled to beat.

Both Acie and Joe were back in action against the Tigers and led A&M to a 72-67 win.

The Aggies closed out the non-conference home schedule with games against Texas Southern (yes, it was their 4th SWAC opponent of the year) and Northwestern State.

After beating TSU by 25 (81-56) the Aggies faced a “giant killer” in Northwestern State.

NSU had knocked off Mississippi State, Oregon State, and Oklahoma State – ALL ON THE ROAD. They also lost 75-77 at Wichita State and narrowly lost to Iowa State (77-81) in overtime. Needless to say, The Deamons were not going to be intimidated by coming to Reed Arena to face the 9-0 Aggies.

All of the pre-game worries about Northwestern State proved to be for naught as the Aggies came out and took care of business in soundly defeating NSU by a final of 73-61.

The Aggies closed out 2005 with a perfect 10-0 record before heading out on the road for the first time in their pre-conference slate of games.

January Review – Letdown and a Long Season?

The first road-trip of the season got the Aggies’ New Year off to a disappointing start.

A visit to Stockton, California to take on the Pacific Tigers resulted in the Aggies’ first loss of the season. Pacific closed the game on a 30-16 run that did in Old Army as Pacific won 63-56.

Heading into league play with an overall record of 10-1, Old Army opened up Big 12 play when our best friends from Lubbock came into Reed Arena. The Aggies rallied from a 25-34 halftime deficit to defeat Bob Knight’s Red Raider squad by a final of 63-55.

With the win over Tech, the Aggies were above .500 for the first time EVER in Big 12 play (at 1-0). This also set the table for a key 5 game stretch that featured 3 games on the road and two home games versus ranked opponents.

The first road game of conference play found the Aggies in Stillwater to take on OSU at Gallagher-Iba. Acie Law was in a zone all night long and paced the Aggies with 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting. Acie had a great look at a 3 to win the game as time expired, but the shot careened off the front iron. There was no doubt that the better team on this particular night did not win the game.

Hoping to shake off the disappointment from the loss in Stillwater, The Aggies welcomed #22 Oklahoma to College Station 4 short days later.

The game was a low scoring, ugly, defensive affair where both teams combined to only score 89 points. Terrell Everett broke the hearts of Aggie fans for the second game in a row when he knocked down a 3 with 6.1 seconds left. Joseph Jones’ lay-up attempt at the buzzer missed badly when he lost control and slipped in the lane.

Two games and two losses that are as tough to swallow as you will ever find. If we as fans were getting frustrated, imagine what these kids were feeling.

Coach Gillispie, searching for the right words after another tough loss had this to say, “We are in the Big 12. It is a 16 game schedule. We play the next game just like we played the one tonight. You play them all the same and add them up in the end.”

Is he also a prophet?

League game #4 found the Aggies in Manhattan, Kansas to take on a feisty KSU team that was coming off of a big win in Lawrence over their archrival, the Kansas Jayhawks.

K-State was ahead by between 5 and 10 points most of the game before the Aggies mounted a 17-6 run late in the second half to tie the game with just over 1 minute left. KSU made two free throws with 0:19 left to go ahead by 2. Acie Law found himself in a familiar situation not once, but twice as he had two great looks back-to-back at three pointers that would have won the game - both missed.

3 games, 4 game winning shots, 3 losses by a combined 7 points and no rest for the weary.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

At 1-3 in the league, the hard luck Aggies headed to Ames to take on Iowa State. The Cyclones seized control of the game with a 10-2 run right before halftime. The 8 point margin at halftime seemed safe and ISU never trailed during the entire second half.

After chipping away at the ISU lead the entire 2nd half, the Aggies finally got within 3 points and had the ball with 0:32 left.

The basketball Gods are not that cruel.

Oft used guard Kenneth (Red) White was substituted into the game for one reason and one reason only – his three point shooting ability. ISU did not guard him in accounting for Carter, Jones, and Law, and Red made them pay. He knocked down a HUGE 3 that tied the game and sent it into overtime - (A&M never led in the 2nd half). The Aggies luck had finally turned as they cruised in the extra period to an 86-81 win.

The 5th game in this early stretch was against Gillispie’s mentor and friend Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks. Too much Brandon Rush and a 14-0 KU run after halftime led to the Aggies second home loss of the month as they fell to KU 73-83.

At 2-4 in conference play and in need of a win, nothing could have looked better than the Baylor Bears coming to town. The Aggies 72-70 win was much closer on paper than it was in all actuality. Baylor hit 16 threes on the afternoon including three in the last minute of the game, one of which was well after the final buzzer sounded.

The Aggies finished January a disappointing 3-5 overall, but had managed to claw their way back to 3-4 in the Big 12. They were at 3-4 in the league, but very easily could have been at 6-1 with the three near misses in a row.

The season record showed them standing at 13-5.

February Review – Pedal to the Metal.

February got off to a tough start with two VERY difficult road games (at OU and at Texas) before you had 5 in a row that had to be considered winnable games.

The Aggies visit to Norman didn’t result in a win, but they did play well in losing to the Sooners 63-71. They got within 3 with about three to play but couldn’t get it any closer from there as OU pulled away late.

The first matchup with our neighbors in Austin was another “close but no cigar” effort as the good guys fell to Texas 70-83. This game was much closer than the final indicated and Joe Jones was a beast in putting up 31 against Tucker, Buckman, and Aldredge.

The meat of the Aggies 2006 conference schedule was finally over and 3 of the next 5 games in February were at home - couple that with a quick visit to Waco and Columbia and the writing was on the wall for a late season kick that would be one for the ages.

Who would have thought, looking back, that a bizarre “carrying” call on Colorado forward Richard Roby would have turned the tide for the Aggies?

With Colorado ahead by 1 and 0:21 left in the game, Roby intercepted an Aggie pass and was on his way for a breakaway dunk to likely seal the game for CU.

To avoid stepping on the sideline after picking off the pass, Roby made a little touch-pass to himself. The referee, right on top of the play, was quick on the whistle with the carrying call. He was also very explicit in his explanation to Roby with what he was being whistled for.

It was a bizarre call, but it was the correct call, I’m just not sure it was the right call. Does that make sense? I didn’t think so either.

Oh yeah – A&M won 61-58.

Up next, a revenge game against OSU.

The OSU game was another ugly game chalked full of misses by both teams and some serious man-to-man defense. Joe Jones hit a soft jumper in the lane with 1.1 seconds left to give the Aggies a 46-44 win.

How ugly was it?

“It was a hard fought game by two teams playing gritty, hard, tough, and determined.” said Gillispie, “To me this is beautiful basketball. Most people wouldn’t look at a 46-44 game and think it was beautiful, but I really do. The uglier the better for us. This one was really high on the ugly scale.”

The win over the Cowboys allowed the Aggies to get back to within one win of the .500 mark in the conference at 5-6.

The next two games were both on the road at Baylor and at Missouri. Road wins in the Big 12 are huge anytime you can get them and these two games would be no exception.

The boys in Maroon managed to escape Waco with a 64-60 win, a game in which they took control late in the second half after letting Baylor sneak back into it.

In Columbia they held Missouri to 4 points over the final 11:41 of the game and got out of Columbia with a 54-51 win. This team was not only learning how to play some stifling defense, they were also learning how to win games on the road.

The win over Mizzou not only was their 4th in a row, it also put them at 7-6 in the league, they were over .500 for the second time ever (Remember 6 weeks ago when they were 1-0?).
The final game in the month of February was back at the friendly confines of Reed Arena against a Nebraska team the national media had termed a “bubble team”.

Leading up to this game, you were starting to hear a few whispers using Texas A&M and “bubble team” in the same sentence.

I got the feeling that most people in the media were quick to dismiss the 17-7 overall mark and 7-6 league mark due to the lack of a “marquee win”.

While Nebraska would not have provided a “marquee win”, it would have proven that the Aggies can compete with other teams on this proverbial bubble.

The Aggies not only defeated Nebraska, they flat out beat them down. They were solid on both ends of the floor and the cornhuskers didn’t stand a chance.

This win, the 5th in a row, was their best all-around victory to this point in the season. It was also their 8th conference win of the year, matching their league total from the previous season with two games left to play.

The Aggies finished February a surprising 5-2 and were now 8-6 in the Big 12. The season record had them at 18-7.

March Review – Get Out Your Dancing Shoes!

On March 1st A&M beat Texas 46-43 and they are now 9-6 in the league.

The final game of the regular season saw the Aggies close out league play the same way they opened it, by playing Texas Tech. A trip to the high plains of West Texas to take on the Raiders is never an easy…..

Wait – A&M Beat Texas?

Yes – It was no big deal.


The win over Texas on March 1st was possibly the biggest win in Aggie basketball history. A national television audience on ESPN2 saw Acie Law knock down a shot he and most of us will remember for the rest of our lives.

(for a clip of “the shot” – click here and hit the video icon listed on the right side)

(for Dave South’s call of “the shot” – click here)

We could go on and on about this game, but considering we are now on page 9, let’s just all give it another big smile.

The final game of the regular season saw the Aggies close out league play the same way they opened it, by playing Texas Tech. A trip to the high plains of West Texas to take on the Raiders is never an easy task, especially after you just took down your biggest rival in dramatic fashion.

The Aggies not only avoided the letdown bug, they flat out kicked the tar out of Tech. This game easily supplanted the Nebraska win as their best all around win of the season. They laid a 75-59 beatdown on the Raiders and no, the game was not as close as the score indicated. Tech scored 8 unanswered points in the final minute.

The victory over Tech was their 7th in a row and put their league mark at 10-6, good enough for 4th place and a first round bye in the Big XII tournament. The victory also put them at the 20 win mark for the 2nd straight year.

"For us to be able to string seven in a row together when things didn't look so good says a lot about the kind of people we have," Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie said. "I've never seen a tougher team."

Postseason Play

In all of my trips to the Big 12 tournament, it was a little strange donning my maroon gear on Thursday and not seeing the Aggies play. Nice problem to have, right?

Colorado beat Baylor on Thursday afternoon setting up the rematch that Mr. Roby had been hoping for.

Mr. Roby, you better be careful as you may get what you ask for.

If you thought the Tech game was an impressive win, that game had nothing on how well the Aggies played in their rematch with Colorado.

It was a rare thing of beauty where A&M could do no wrong in anything they did on both ends of the floor. They jumped all over the Buffalos and routed Colorado 86-53.

Richard Roby bowed out gracefully by slamming the ball to the floor and getting a technical foul with about 5 minutes left in the game. Goodbye Richard, good luck in the NBA (it was however a good idea to not hire an agent just yet).

The Aggies’ win streak was now at 8 games. The win also represented another first for Aggie Hoops – Their first ever Big 12 tournament win.

The win over Colorado set up a rubber game with the top seeded Longhorns. The 3rd time did not prove out to be as dramatic as the last time out, but the Aggies and Longhorns did put on another great show.

The Horns jumped out to a quick lead and were able to maintain it heading into halftime with a 43-30 lead. The Aggies came surging back behind a 19-7 run out of the break that got them back to within one at 50-49.

The teams traded buckets for a few possessions before two free throws from Acie Law gave the Aggies the lead at 66-64 with 3:39 left to play.

In the end, UT was just the better team once again and went on to win 74-70. The Aggies put up a good fight and proved once again that they can play on the same level as any of the top-tier teams.

Selection Sunday brought about yet another first for Texas A&M – Their first ever “at-large” selection to the NCAA tournament. Any stress regarding their inclusion in the field was alleviated rather quickly as they were the 6th team out of 64 to be announced.

(for a clip of their announcement on CBS - click here)

Up next for the Aggies was a trip to Jacksonville, Florida as a #12 seed taking on the 5th seeded Orange of Syracuse.

Syracuse was one of the hottest teams in the country coming in to the tournament but they quickly found out just how fast the tide can turn.

Behind stifling man-to-man pressure like they had not seen all season long and Gerry McNamara’s worst outing of his career (was he injured?), the Orange were defeated 66-58.

The Aggies continued on their own hot streak playing well on both ends of the court.

I was concerned that A&M might have had some problems with Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, but they were able to knock down a few shots from the outside and had a decent high-low game working well enough to put a few points on the board.

I’m still not entirely sure, but I think the Aggies just won an NCAA tournament game.

This is the same program that two years ago was 0-17 in the league, right?

Pretty cool isn’t it?

Just remember when you’ve had a few too many pops and are celebrating a big win with a dance that you clear it left, clear it right, and then bring it in and out. I’m an idiot.

After pulling the ever popular 12 over 5 upset, the Aggies next faced a very athletic LSU team, the #4 seed in the Atlanta region.

The Aggies and Tigers were locked into an interesting battle in a first half that featured both teams going on pronounced runs. LSU led by as many as 12, A&M led by as many as 5, but at the intermission, the game was locked up at 29 each.

The second half happened to flow in a much more traditional manner as each team battled for buckets. The Aggies trailed by as many 7 late in the game before rallying to take a 2 point lead on Acie Law’s fade-away jumper with 18 seconds left.

On the next possession, LSU guard Darrel Mitchell hit a deep 3 with 4 seconds left to give LSU the one point win. Mitchell’s shot was a slug to the gut for all Aggie fans that still stings, but hey, full credit to Mitchell for knocking down a huge shot in an even bigger situation.

Mitchell’s shot and the loss to LSU brought closure to what was possibly the best all-around basketball season ever at Texas A&M.

"We didn't come here today to lose," Gillispie said. "We didn't come here to get experience. We came here to win, and we fell short, and it's very, very disappointing for us to not be on the right side of the scoreboard.”

The Aggies finished March with a 4-2 record which put them at 22-9 overall.

After the dust had settled and the players and coaches had some time to reflect, it was hard to not be disappointed after the loss to LSU.

Billy Gillispie:
"Every single game this year, we were in a position to win in the last four minutes. I've never been a part of a team that did that before. You always have one or two games where whatever is going to happen just happens (in a loss). But this team put itself in legitimate position to win every game."

Acie Law:
“It’s good we were able to do something for the school and accomplish so much this year. It wipes away the feeling we had (after the LSU game) to see the fans and how they feel about us. Each day, we work extremely hard and bring our hard hats to practice. Every time we go out, the fans show unbelievable support. This is great. I love it and am looking forward to next year.”

Billy Gillispie:
“It’s a very important time for us. As captivated as a lot of folks are around here, there are a lot of (recruits) who are interested across the state. We’re going to try and build on the momentum and take advantage of it and see what we can do. You can’t rest. We have a lot of work to do. That was a great year, but that’s not exactly where we want this thing to end up in the long run.”

Dominique Kirk:
“I hope we just continue to build. We came a long way this year, and we want to keep building toward the top….hopefully our best is yet to come.”

The Aggie Hoops Report – 2005-2006 Season Awards.

Team MVPAcie Law – The key that drives the car.

Most ImprovedDominique Kirk – The Sophomore developed into one of the premier defenders in all of the country.

Freshman of the YearJosh Carter – Silky smooth shot with the potential to be the next superstar in College Station.

Newcomer of the YearAntanas Kavaliauskas – Solid JUCO signee for Gillispie last year.

Best Win33 point victory over Colorado in Dallas – secured NCAA tournament spot.

Biggest Win3 point victory over Texas – put them in the national spotlight.

Best Loss74-70 loss to Texas in Dallas – played well enough to win, just couldn’t get it done.

Worst Loss - 1 point loss to LSU in NCAA 2nd round – still stings. 1 bucket or 1 stop away.

2005-2006 was an amazing year for basketball fans in Aggieland.

Gillispie is laying the foundation for what should be many years of an enjoyable brand of basketball to watch.

People have often referred to A&M Hoops as a “sleeping giant”. I don’t think that bad boy is sleeping any more, do you?

197 days until midnight madness, but hey, who’s counting?

Sometime in the next couple of weeks I will put together our look ahead to 2006-2007. I will include a complete breakdown of what is possibly the best incoming freshman class Aggie Hoops will have ever seen.

Well, that turned out to be much longer than I had planned.

Thanks for stopping by.

Carry on.


Post a Comment

<< Home