Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Arkansas - Little Rock

Let’s talk about the Aggies game against Arkansas-Little Rock last night.

Much like Saturday against Idaho State – this game had a very surreal feel to it.

The Aggies did nothing to make you say “wow” on the offensive end of the floor (except for another spectacular Josh Carter ally oop of course - - this time from Acie Law).

The weird thing is that when you looked up at the end of the game it was 75-35 Aggies. I know that is difficult to explain, but this one did have a different feel from a couple of angles.

The two biggest differences in the game last night and the game on Saturday were UA-LR’s defensive approach and A&M’s defensive intensity.

Where Idaho State completely neutralized the Aggies inside game with a nasty 3-2 zone, UA-LR chose to mostly play man-to-man defense all night. This allowed both Joseph Jones and Antanas Kavaliauskas to get loose inside for more of what you would expect from the two big men.

Joe had 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting and AK chipped in 13 on 6 or 7 from the field while also adding 9 boards.

Acie Law also did his thing by scoring 17 points and adding 7 assists.

Most of Acie’s production came from the 12 to 16 foot range as he was able to create separation and knock down a handful of those patented mid-range jumpers.

Dominique Kirk and Josh Carter were non factors offensively as the pair combined to go 4 of 14 on the night which included 1 for 7 from the 3 point line.

Josh only played 19 minutes, so I guess Gillispie was not kidding when he said he hoped Josh “gives himself a chance to play enough to shoot it by guarding somebody.”

Dominique was his usual dominating self on the defensive end and helped contribute to the most mind boggling stat of the year so far - - the fact that UA-LR was 0 for 20 from behind the arc.

The Aggies defensive intensity was night and day as compared to Saturday.

On Saturday, Idaho State shot the ball terribly because they simply were not making any buckets on open looks at the basket.
On Monday, UA-LR shot the ball poorly because the Aggies turned up their defensive pressure and caused them all kinds of problems.

After the game Coach Gillispie was talking about playing good team defense and how one of the statistics they monitor as a coaching staff is how many shots they contest on the defensive end. He said, “It’s all about how many you contest, and tonight we contested most of them.”

When you look at the box score in total – you will notice that UA-LR only shot 26% on the night (13 of 50) and most all of that was due to A&M’s defensive pressure. You can probably count on one hand the open looks they had at the basket.

One thing I failed to mention after the Idaho State game on Saturday was that as Dave South was signing off the radio broadcast at about 4:30 that afternoon, he concluded the broadcast by saying, “Well, that will do it for us here from courtside at Reed Arena. Oh. Ok. It looks like the guys are coming back out for a workout. For Al Pulliam, I’m Dave South, good night.”

I took from Dave’s comments that Coach G had them right back out after the game for a practice session.

The extra work clearly paid off as their defensive effort was back to what we have all come to expect from these guys.

I was glad to see the patented defensive pressure return to the Aggies effort last night and it clearly paid off as is reflected in not only the poor shooting by UA-LR, but also the fact that A&M forced them into 19 turnovers.

All told it was a much better effort by the Aggies, and it was nice to get meaningful contributions from a variety of positions on the floor that included 4 guys scoring in double digits.

Some quick hits:

- Bryan Davis only played 7 minutes on Monday.

- Junior Elonu finally worked his way back into the rotation by earning 12 minutes before fouling out at the 4:26 mark.

- Derrick Roland also earned quite a bit more playing time also earning 12 minutes.

- The Aggies continued to shoot the ball very well - - 58% (26-45).

- There were only 5,544 people at the game on Monday – VERY disappointing – and even Gillispie took note in saying, “We're appreciative of every person who comes to the games, but I'll just say you notice, and the players notice it as well. That's not being negative, but you do notice."

- Gillispie also had a little fun with a reporter who noted that the Aggies didn’t allow baskets on back-to-back possessions but one time in the game. The reporter wondered what his thoughts were on his defense’s ability to do that. He said, “We try to win every possession. Our guys have a mindset of ‘let’s compete’ and win this possession. I didn’t know that they didn’t have consecutive baskets. That’s not a stat that we look at a whole lot………… but I’m glad you like it.” The media room busted up laughing and he said thanks and walked out.

Looking Ahead

The stretch that will define this team’s non-conference slate starts on Saturday this week.

The Aggies host perennial tournament team Pacific on Saturday afternoon to kick off a HUGE three game stretch for A&M.

Pacific handed the Aggies their only non-conference loss of the year last season and the Aggies will have payback on their mind when they tip off at 2:00 on Saturday.

Tuesday next week (Dec. 5) the Aggies travel to Baton Rogue to take on #10 LSU in a rematch of last years epic second round NCAA tournament game. The game can be seen on FSN at 8:00.

A week from Saturday (Dec. 9) the Aggies travel to Anaheim, California for the John Wooden Classic when they take on #1 UCLA. This game can be seen on CBS at 1:30.

We will offer full previews and predictions for both the LSU and UCLA games next week.

As noted before, we will not be able to make the Pacific game this Saturday, so we will only have a quick recap on Sunday evening.

Aggie(s) in the NBA (Good idea Jerry Bluhm)

Antoine Wright is currently in his 2nd year with the New Jersey Nets. Antoine has started 6 of the Nets 13 games this season and is averaging 26 minutes per game. He scored a career high 16 points on November 10th vs. Miami. His best all around game came at Seattle on November 20th when he had 11 points and 11 rebounds in playing 38 minutes.

Your next chance to see Antoine in action is on Dec. 20th when the Nets take on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on ESPN at 7:00.

Carry on.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Idaho State

A quick note tonight to recap the Aggies game on Saturday afternoon against Idaho State.

The good guys were able to take care of their business and beat Idaho State 74-44 in front of a holiday weekend crowd of 5,777 on Saturday afternoon. (With the kids on vacation for Thanksgiving weekend there were probably fewer than 100 students in attendance.)

This was quite possibly one of the most bizarre 30 point victories I have ever seen. I told a couple of you guys yesterday that I was having a hard time making the math add up. It was just a strange afternoon on a few accounts.

First, Idaho State could not buy a bucket all afternoon. They only made 15 field goals on 52 attempts (28.8%).

It was not necessarily a case of the Aggies playing great pressure defense (only forced 12 turnovers) more-so than it was a case of ISU just not being able to knock down any shots. They had plenty of wide open looks; they just could not get anything to fall.

Second, ISU threw one of the most aggressive collapsing zones anyone has thrown at the Aggies in a couple of years. They set up in a 3-2 zone from the opening tip and only played a handful of man-to-man possessions the entire game.

The biggest difference in the ISU zone approach and that of other team’s approach was that there were never fewer than 3 people crowding the lane at all times on Saturday. I have not seen anyone sell out to the interior to the extreme that ISU did all afternoon.

Credit to ISU coach Joe O’Brien for sticking to his gameplan. His team held Joseph Jones, Antanas Kavaliauskas, and Bryan Davis to absolutely horrible performances.

The three big men combined to go 3 for 9 on the day with Big Joe fouling out and only having 1 point from the free throw line. The 1 point performance from Joe was far and away his worst performance in a long time.

Coach Gillispie, ever the teacher said “Joseph Jones, Antanas Kavaliauskas, and Bryan Davis have got to be better, combining for eight points is not going to get it done. With as many touches as they get, they have to score baskets. But they took the play that was presented to them and you have to applaud them for that.”

Alright, enough with the “bad”, let’s talk some of the “good”.

Acie Law and Josh Carter were phenomenal all afternoon.

Acie had a great game running the show and was able to not only get a few good looks on the outside, he did a nice job of finding holes in the ISU zone to create some mid-range looks for himself.
When it was said and done, Acie chipped in 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting and added 9 assists. Of his 9 makes, 8 of them were of the two point variety.

Breaking down his 9 assists, 6 of them were to Josh Carter and 7 of them were assists on three point buckets.

What the 22 and 9 tells you is that Acie was doing two things running the point.

One, he was getting penetration into the zone, drawing the defense, and kicking out to the open man on the perimeter.

Two, he was getting penetration into the zone and being left open to shoot the ball as the defense was concerned with the before mentioned perimeter players.

Josh Carter also had himself a career and record-tying day.

Josh had a career high 26 points on 9 of 11 shooting including a school-record-tying 8 three point buckets. (He tied the record held by Bernard King and everyone’s favorite McDonald’s All-American - Jerald Brown).

His one basket that was not a three, was a pretty nasty ally-oop from Dominique Kirk, a play in which Josh snuck behind the zone along the baseline and elevated up and killed it.

Again, Gillispie, the perfectionist had this to say about Josh’s afternoon. “I'm never concerned with Josh shooting the ball. I just hope he gives himself a chance to play enough to shoot it by guarding somebody.”

I guess coach would like to see a little more out of Josh on the defensive end of the floor.

Uhhhhh. Ok coach. You’re the boss.

Coach O’Brien was certainly impressed in saying, “We didn't think they wanted to or could shoot the 3 very well. We have a different opinion now. Josh Carter was phenomenal.”

Anyway – It was a very bizarre afternoon as everyone except Acie and Josh looked very-very average and the team as a whole looked a step slow on both ends of the floor.

All of that being said, they still beat a half-decent Idaho State team by 30.

Again – Something just seems to be missing, but I’m not sure what. Perhaps I’m being too critical.

The flow of the game was pretty basic and followed most of what we talked about up above. Lots of Josh Carter and Acie Law coupled with lots of misses from ISU.

Idaho State jumped out to a 6-3 lead before the Aggies reeled off a 20-1 run to take a commanding 23-7 advantage. Idaho State managed to score the last 8 points before the half and cut the Aggie lead to 37-24 at halftime.

Out of the break, the Aggies jumped on the Bengals with a 14-3 run to go ahead 51-27 and they never looked back from there in route to the 74-44 win.

Some quick hits:

- Bryan Davis played 22 minutes, taking quite a few minutes from both Joe and Antanas. Bryan has a long way to go, but it is great to see him get meaningful minutes. He is very athletic and will be a special player when it is all said and done.

- Donald Sloan also played 18 minutes. Donald, along with Logan Lee (10 minutes) and Davis (see above) made up the primary 8 man rotation on the day.

- Junior Elonu did not see the floor and Derrick Roland only played 1 minute (late in the game).

- Marlon Pompey (stress fracture) is off of his crutches but was walking quite slow with a very noticeable limp.

- The Aggies shot a red-hot 62% (28-45) on the game.

Looking Ahead

The Aggies host Arkansas-Little Rock on Monday. I don’t know much about UA-LR other than the fact that they were picked to finish first in the Sun Belt’s western division by the leagues coaches’ in the preseason poll.

They have played two other brand name schools in losing to Texas Tech 93-59 and Tulsa 66-60; both games were on the road.

We will be going up for the game and hopefully we’ll have a little more conventional 30 point win to talk about on Tuesday.

Brand New Cheap Promotional Ploy

We will be unable to make the game vs. Pacific on Saturday (2:00) this week if you are interested in buying our tickets, please let me know by Tuesday afternoon.

Carry on.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Shelby Metcalf Classic Recap

The Aggies completed a three game sweep in the 1st annual Shelby Metcalf Classic with a dominating 69-33 win over Saint Louis on Sunday evening (more below).

On Friday night, they coasted past Lamar by a score of 94-60. The Aggies jumped out to a 30-5 lead and never looked back against the overmatched Cardinals. Joseph Jones led 5 Aggies in double figures with 19 points. Josh Carter chipped in 14, Kavaliauskas and Kirk each had 12, while Bryan Davis scored 11. Gillispie found time to play 16 players in the blowout win of which 13 found a way to score.

Saturday, A&M overcame a sluggish start to pull away from Louisiana Tech 75-59. Acie Law finally broke out of his mini-slump and had his first big game of the 2006-2007 campaign in scoring 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting. Joe Jones added 19 and Josh Carter had 12.

Sunday, the Aggies showed why they are considered to be one of the top teams in the country in dominating what many consider to be a pretty good Saint Louis squad by a final score of 69-33. Coming into the weekend, Saint Louis was receiving votes in both the Coaches and AP polls. The Aggies used suffocating defense to lock down Saint Louis and in the process tied a school record for fewest points allowed by an opponent in the first half (13). During a 9 minute stretch of the opening half, the Aggies held Saint Louis scoreless for 15 straight possessions in extending their halftime lead to 34-13. Acie had another good game scoring 23 points on 10 of 15 from the field. Joe added 11 points as the only other guy in double figures. It's also worth mentioning, and I'm sure quite a few of you saw, but just to put it into perspective, Saint Louis came into Sunday averaging 80+ per game. I don't know much, but I do know that when you hold a team to 50 below their average, you are probably going to win most of those games.

Hopefully you guys were all able to watch some of the game on FSN Sunday afternoon (after the technical difficulties were fixed of course).

The Aggies have another week off this week before taking on Idaho State on Saturday afternoon at 2:00. Don't immediately dismiss Idaho State on name value alone - - so far this season, the Bengals have taken both #16 Marquette and BYU to overtime (both losses for ISU). We are planning to attend the game so we'll be able to have a full report for you week after next.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving.

Carry on.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Opening Night (2006-2007) PVAMU

Just a few quick notes to recap the game and to let you guys know what we learned on Friday night when the Aggies took on Prairie View A&M.

The Aggies were never really challenged the entire night and PVAMU was just simply overmatched.

Billy Gillispie and his 2006-2007 team looked very sharp early on jumping out to a 32-9 lead over the first 12 minutes of the first half. The early pace was set by using effective ball movement around the perimeter and taking advantage of the small Prairie View lineup inside.

The later part of the opening half was marred by poor shooting and too many turnovers by the Aggies. I think it was just a matter of becoming disinterested in the game and not really being challenged by Prairie View.

The second half was not so much about working with your starters, more so than it was working on rotations with some of your new guys all the while getting additional minutes for Joe Jones and Acie Law, both of whom missed nearly the entire preseason with injuries.

Speaking of injuries, Marlon Pompey was on the sideline in street clothes and on crutches. Marlon has a stress-fracture in his foot and is out for at a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks. There is a chance he may need to have pins inserted in the foot to help the fracture heel. If this is the case it may be as long as two months before Marlon could be ready to go. (More on the impact of Marlon’s injury on the team is detailed below.)

There were moments in the first half when this group of guys showed that they have the ability to compete with nearly anyone in the country. There were also moments when they went absolutely brain-dead and reverted to many of the problems that plagued them early on last season (turnovers / poor shooting).

The bottom line is that they came out and put on a good show against a lesser opponent in front of the largest crowd (10,722) to ever see a home opener in the history of the school.

OK – Here is what we learned.

I’ve already talked to quite a few of you guys about this, so forgive me while I repeat myself.

The biggest thing with this year’s team is going to be about the “next 4” guys.

In 2005-2006 the core group of guys who accounted for most of the team’s production consisted of Joseph Jones, Acie Law, Dominique Kirk, Josh Carter, and Antanas Kavaliauskas.

Last year, your next 4 guys were Chris Walker, Marlon Pompey, Kenneth “Red” White, and Eddie Smith.

No offense to any of these guys, but on any other team in the Big 12, none of them probably crack the rotation to play meaningful minutes.

I know Marlon and Chris were permanent starters on last season’s squad, and without either of them, the team likely would not have had the success that they did have (Chris probably more so than Marlon). Looking back, I think Chris Walker not only epitomized everything that was right with last year’s team, he also epitomized everything that was wrong with last year’s team.

Chris brought an energy and a toughness on the defensive end of the floor that not only endeared him to his coach, he also made him a cult favorite amongst the student body at A&M. This does not change the fact that “C-Walk” was not a legitimate power forward at the NCAA Division I level.

Marlon also brought a degree of toughness and a certain level of athleticism to the defensive end of the floor, but he too was an Achilles heel on the offensive end.

This year, your “next 4” guys are going to be Junior Elonu, Bryan Davis, Derrick Roland, and Donald Sloan.

Junior Elonu is probably going to be the flashiest of the 4 guys. The 6’10” 225 pound big man is like a more polished Pompey. He is just as athletic (if not more so) than Pompey, but he brings you more on the offensive end of the floor. His game will likely never extend beyond 10 feet away from the basket, but as a defense you will certainly have to account for Junior.

Junior had two electrifying dunks and a great “come from behind” block on Friday night. All three plays caused “oohs and aahs” throughout the arena.

If Junior can keep his head on straight and control his temper he can become a very effective player for Gillispie very quickly. Junior will certainly garner some of Pompey’s minutes while he is injured.

The other guy that will help make up minutes in Marlon’s absence is going to be Bryan Davis. The 6’9” big freshman is probably not quite as athletic as Elonu, but he plays much bigger than both Marlon and Junior. He is going to be a beast to handle inside and seems to have a nose for the basketball – in other words he loves blocks and rebounds. Bryan can extend his game to around the 15’ mark on the floor and will also cause defenses to account for his presence on the floor.

Both Junior and Bryan are going to be able to contribute more to this team than Marlon would have been able to. That’s more a testament to the talent of these two guys than it is a knock on Marlon.

On the perimeter, Derrick Roland is going to be a difference maker on the defensive end of the floor. Friday night he caused two 5 second penalties with his ability to “get wide” as a defender. One of them was in the open floor playing solid defense. The other was guarding a guy trying to inbound the basketball on the baseline.

In the season preview we talked about his ability to guard all 3 perimeter positions and this was clearly evident on Friday night as he was all over the place on the defensive end of the court.

He looked a little out of place on the other end and was struggling to find his role in the offense. I think this is just a matter of Roland getting used to Gillispie’s system and in no way, shape, or form a matter of ability. We’ll be able to tell a little more about Derrick’s game over the coming weeks.

Donald Sloan, a high school teammate of Roland, did a great job coming off the bench and running the offense. At 6’2” is surprisingly quick and was able to create a few more things
for himself in the offense.

On the defensive end I thought Sloan was ok. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t great either. Over the course of the year anything that may be missing on the defensive end of the floor will likely be made up with his ability to create in offense.

So there you have the one game impression of this year’s “next 4”.

The talent and bench on this roster is night and day better than last season.

Some quick hits:

- Antanas Kavaliauskas continued the domination he started in February of last year. This guy has improved leaps and bounds in a very short time. You can tell he put in a ton of work in the gym this summer and has a chance to be a key contributor in his senior year.

- The state’s top prospect, DeAndre Jordan and 3 other players signed letters of intent last week to join the Aggie team in 2007-2008. Details are in the links below.


- Heralded recruit Bryan Beasley from Pflugerville did not see the court on Friday night.

- Point Guard Logan Lee was the first guy off the bench in the first half.

- Chris Walker was in the crowd on Friday night and received a standing ovation when they showed him on the scoreboard.

- The Aggies shot 49% (29-59) on the game which included a horrendous 2-10 from Acie Law and 1-7 from Dominique Kirk. Remove those two guys from the equation and the shooting percentage would have been a salty 62%.

- Reed Arena has never looked better with the addition of a new 8 panel center hung scoreboard and a full complement of ribbon boards encompassing the entire arena. It was quite a production and the atmosphere in the building was certainly entertaining. It should be a lot of fun when conference play rolls around.

Looking Ahead

No mid-week game this week as the Aggies get ready to host the 1st annual Shelby Metcalf Classic on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this weekend.

Joining A&M in the round robin tournament are Lamar, Saint Louis, and Louisiana Tech. The Aggies play Lamar on Friday night, Louisiana Tech on Saturday night, and finish up with Saint Louis on Sunday night.

** Sunday night’s game vs. Saint Louis will be broadcast on FSN at 5:30 **

I don’t know much about any of the three teams other than the fact that Saint Louis and Louisiana Tech are not terrible while Lamar is terrible.

It will be good for the guys to get some experience playing in a back-to-back-to-back situation. Despite the S.M. Classic falling so early in the year, let’s hope that playing on 3 consecutive days will help them get ready for similar situations they will hopefully face in both the big 12 tournament and postseason play.

Continued Cheap Promotional Ploy

We are not going to be able to make it to any of the games this weekend and are still trying to sell our tickets if you are interested.

Also – since we’re going to be unable to make it to the games we will likely just send a quick update later next week with minimal details.

As you were.