The Aggies and Wildcats fought in a true grind-it-out battle on Saturday night at Reed Arena with the good guys coming out on top 69-65.
The first half of this game was as sloppy and as tough to watch as we have seen in quite some time. You could tell pretty early on that this was going to be a long night and a tough battle.
Both teams came out playing fierce man-to-man defense, and it was pretty clear that K-State was going to try and knock off the Aggies by beating them at their own game.
Off of the opening tip, the Aggies came out firing blanks by missing 8 of their first 9 shots.
Fortunately for A&M, two things happened early on to keep them in the game.
1.) K-State was whistled for quite a few fouls early in the game. The Aggies took advantage of this position by converting all 12 of their free throw attempts in the first half.
2.) Dominique Kirk knocked down a couple of big 3’s – 10 minutes into the game, the Aggies had only managed to make 2 field goals, both 3’s by DK.
K-State was forcing the tempo of the game early on and clearly caught the Aggies by surprise. The Wildcats managed to put up 28 shots in the first half (compared to 21 for A&M).
All of this said, the biggest news in the first half was that K-State super-freshman Bill Walker left the game with a knee injury and did not return. (Walker had an MRI on Sunday and will undergo further tests on Monday – the extent of the injury is unknown.)
The other odd thing was that one of the Big 12’s top players, Cartier Martin, did not start the game for K-State. When asked about this after the game, Bob Huggins said that he did not start Cartier in an attempt to limit his minutes.
“We were looking to limit their minutes a little bit.” Huggins explained, “Their production has been better when their minutes have been lower. When they play too many minutes they get tired. When they get tired they stand around and commit more fouls. That’s all there was to it.”
He’s one of the most respected coaches in the game and I’m just a simple minded kid from Oklahoma, but if I had a talent like Cartier Martin on my team, I think I’d have him in the starting lineup, but that’s just me.
As they went to the break, the Aggies had a 32-30 advantage with neither team holding more than a 5 point lead at any point throughout the first frame.
The second half was not nearly as sloppy as the first.
The early part of the second frame was not necessarily about what A&M was or was not doing, more so than it was about the fact that K-State went through a 6+ minute stretch where they converted 10 of 13 field goal attempts.
If you were able to watch the game there is no need for me to tell you, but a great majority of those 10 makes were terrible shots. It was one of those frustrating stretches where no matter what K-State threw at the rim, the shots all found a way to fall.
By the time K-State was done throwing junk in from all over the floor, the Aggies looked up and were trailing 53-48.
Enter Josh Carter.
Josh was really struggling from the field as K-State was doing a great job of always making sure someone was accounting for his whereabouts. Through the first 33 minutes of the game, Josh was only able to put up 3 shots (all misses).
With 7 minutes left in the game, a streaking Acie Law found Josh alone in the corner right in front of the Aggie bench. Josh not only knocked down the 3 point shot but also managed to draw a foul from K-State’s Lance Harris. Josh converted the rare 4-point play to draw the score even at 55 apiece.
Including the 4-point play, Josh scored 9 of the next 13 points for the Aggies – this mini-streak not only seemed to spark the good guys, it also finally got the crowd of over 11,000 into the game.
When the crowd finally woke up, A&M turned up their defensive intensity and managed to hold KSU to only two field goals over the last 6+ minutes of the game.
When they added them up at the buzzer – the Aggies managed to hold on for the 69-65 win.
I guess the thing that surprised me more than anything about K-State was that it was not so much about Bill Walker and Cartier Martin more so than it was about K-State’s depth.
KSU managed to produce 32 of their 65 points from guys on their bench. They had 9 people play at least 10 minutes. Not only were they bringing it on the offensive end, they were playing man-to-man defense as tough as you will ever see.
We talked last week about how you should be glad that A&M not only had KSU at home, but also that they had KSU early. I got a couple of text messages from you guys after the game saying that A&M does not want to see this group again, and I could not agree more.
I think this an early example of A&M being a marked team this year. This is all just a by-product of the success the program has enjoyed the last couple of years. You are certainly going to get everyone’s “A” game each time out. I know this much, the K-State group I saw on Saturday night was certainly a different bunch than we saw on Wednesday when they played at Xavier and lost by 10.
At the end of the day, a win is a win and you will take all of them you can get in this league.
Next up, the Aggies travel to Waco on Tuesday night (7:00 - - FSN) to take on Baylor. This game will certainly be a good test for Gillispie’s group.
- Only 6 people saw significant minutes on Saturday night. Pompey played 25 rather terrible minutes off the bench. Sloan, Lee, Mulbach, Davis, and Elonu each saw time for a possession or two.
- Speaking of Pompey, he had a huge “put back” with the game tied at 57 and he did some nice things defensively, but if you watched this game, you saw the same thing I did. 4 of his 5 turnovers were terrible, and he’s lucky that nobody in the first row of the stands got injured by one of his wayward passes. Look, I know I am always picking on Marlon, but it’s amazing to me that he still garners 25 minutes each night.
- Kavaliauskas was a big non-event on Saturday as well. He fouled out in 15 minutes of action only scoring 3 points on 1 of 4 from the field. He seemed like his head was not in the game for some reason. He made quite a few uncharacteristic plays. I’m sure he will bounce back and have a good game at Baylor on Tuesday.
- Joe Jones was better – 17 points, 9 rebounds - but he still struggled from the field only converting 5 of 13 attempts. The big fella did manage to knock down all 7 of his free throw attempts.
- The only area of the box score where A&M dominated K-State was on the glass. The Aggies won the rebound battle 37-26.
- The biggest knock on the Aggies right now is a failure to consistently take care of the ball. They committed 16 turnovers on Saturday night which led to 22 points for KSU.
- Martellus Bennett was at Reed Arena on Saturday night. Too bad he was walking around all night shaking hands and kissing babies and not in uniform on the bench. He did look really nice in his baby blue Roc-a-fella outfit though.
- Also in attendance were Aggie commits DeAndre Jordan and B.J. Holmes. Jordan is a beast and Holmes was much smaller than I would have guessed.
The Aggies travel to Waco on Tuesday to take on Baylor at 7:00. The game is going to be on FSN, but you will need to check your local listings. I know for sure that the game will be on in Houston but not Dallas as the Stars are also on FSN and have priority. If you have “FSN Alternate” channels, check those. If you have DirecTV or DishNetwork you are good to go – just check your alternates.
Baylor is coming off of a 77-81 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday night. The game was not nearly as close as the final score would indicate. OSU was in control with a double-digit lead all night. Baylor was down by 13 with 3 minutes left before they managed to knock down a barrage of three’s late in the game to make it close.
Traveling to Waco is always a tough test for the Aggies as you know you are going to get Baylor’s best effort. There is not a whole lot that gets the kids in Waco more excited than when the Aggies come to town.
Any conversation about Baylor has to start with Kevin Rogers, Henry Dugat and Aaron Bruce. Rogers is a 6’9” sophomore that will be able to bang inside with Joe and AK. Dugat and Bruce love to push the tempo and put up the ball from the perimeter. True freshman Josh Lomars (7’0” – 265 lbs.) has also been able to sufficiently get in the way inside.
Baylor also has a couple of guys that come off the bench that can light it up in Tim Bush and Tweety Carter.
Baylor is averaging over 80 points per game this season, and the Aggies will certainly be tested in trying to slow down their up-tempo attack.
In order to contend for a Big 12 title, the Aggies are going to need to win these types of games on the road.
My guess is that the good guys will prevail in the end, but I would expect it to be a pretty close game.