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.


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