The Aggies and Sooners battled in the “tale of two halves’ on Saturday afternoon with the Aggies prevailing in the end 70-61.
The first half of the game was, in a nutshell, horrible. Neither team could find a rhythm nor get any momentum established on either end of the floor.
In fact, A&M came out so sluggish at the beginning that Gillispie decided he needed to make a statement. Nearly 4 minutes into the game Gillispie pulled all 5 of his starters in the same substitution.
I guess he felt they all needed to sit for a moment and think about their effort.
"Coach was trying to send a message to get something going and get a spark in our team," commented Acie Law.
Gillispie put them all back in nearly three minutes later and his message apparently worked as the starting 5 went on a small 10-to-5 run to tie the game at 16 apiece.
For the balance of the first frame, the two teams continued to trade baskets, sort of.
The final 7 minutes for the Sooners was all Nate Carter. Carter hit a jumper with 6:54 left to put his team up 21-19, and from that point forward, the final 8 points of the half for OU were all free throws by Carter.
If you do not enjoy watching 7 minutes of basketball with nothing going on but free throws, then you simply do not enjoy college basketball. (Please note heavy dose of sarcasm.)
The best news for the Aggies in the first half was the resurgence of Josh Carter and Antanas Kavaliauskas.
Josh had 8 first half points, including his first three point basket since the Aggies’ win at Colorado back on January 13th.
Kavaliauskas also came out of the blocks strong scoring 13 early points for the good guys mainly working against the undersized and overmatched Nate Carter.
We have discussed numerous times in this arena how important production from both Kavaliauskas and Carter is to this team. Having them both bounce back with solid play in the first half was a very welcome sight.
With the score 29-28 in favor of the Sooners, we all welcomed the halftime break hoping that the 2nd half would provide more highlights than the first.
Thankfully, both teams obliged; the play coming out of the break was much better as both groups seemed to have found renewed energy at the half.
You could immediately tell that Gillispie got to his guys at the half – they came out and looked like an entirely different group – the difference in their energy level was night-and-day.
It was almost as if they just flipped the switch, the Aggies immediately went on a 17-8 run to pull ahead by 8 points at 45-37 with just over 12 minutes left in the game.
Kavaliauskas again made an immediate impact scoring 7 of the Aggies’ 17 points in the run to open the second half. Josh Cater also made his presence felt by knocking down his second three point basket of the game during the run.
The next 8 minutes saw the Sooners claw their way back into the game getting as close at 53-51 with just under 5 minutes left.
[Queue Acie Law and his (now typical) late game heroics.]
The Aggies then went on their second major run of the second half; a 12-to-2 run that quickly pushed the lead back to 12 points.
Acie Law was pivotal during that stretch scoring 10 consecutive points for the Aggies after Dominique Kirk hit a big shot to kick-start the run.
Acie was super on Saturday afternoon as his final line read 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists.
For whatever reason, Acie continues to wait until late in the game to exhort his dominance on opposing teams. 12 of Acie’s 19 points came in the last 4 minutes of the game.
"He's awfully good in crunch time and you wouldn't trade that for anything,” Gillispie said, “but I think he could be a little bit more assertive and aggressive. Instead of scoring 19 points, I believe he could score 34 if his mind-set was changed a little bit."
Acie was also not very pleased after the win in saying, “We didn't play well today. It shouldn't have come down to that point where I needed to score those kind of baskets at the end of the game. We should have been playing better at the beginning."
Personally, I’m just glad the good guys were able to shake the funk from the Tech game and a lethargic first half to play MUCH better in the second frame.
- Welcome back Josh Carter - - 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting and 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
- Welcome back Antanas Kavaliauskas - - 20 points on 8-of-10 from the field and 6 rebounds.
(When Carter and Kavaliauskas combine to score 25+ points, the Aggies would beat anyone in the country. I can not stress to you all how important these two guys are going to be down the stretch as we get into that tough February schedule this team is going to face.)
- Joe Jones had an uneventful night scoring 7 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. Joe however did a very good job of keeping OU big man Longar Longar off balance most of the night.
- Oklahoma had zero turnovers in the 2nd half after committing 8 in the first period.
- Oklahoma’s Nate Carter was a very impressive 13-for-13 from the free-throw line.
- Acie’s 10 points during the late run were certainly impressive, but it could have been even better if he would not have missed the front-end of two consecutive one-and-one opportunities.
- Bryan Davis (6 minutes) and Martellus Bennett (7 minutes) ate up a huge portion of Marlon Pompey’s minutes on Saturday night as Pompey only saw 9 minutes of action. At one point, Marlon got up to enter the game and Gillispie jumped up and shoved him back down the bench then immediately grabbed Bryan Davis by his warmup and lifted him out of his seat and threw him toward the scorers table to go check in the game. Needless to say, Gillispie was visibly upset with Marlon’s effort on Saturday night.
- The win over OU snapped a 14 game losing streak to the Sooners and was only the second win in 27 games all-time against OU.
- Oklahoma shot a dismal 33.9% from the field. The Aggies continue to lead the nation in FG% defense (.351).
- The Aggies did a much better job taking care of the ball on Saturday only committing 7 turnovers.
- Gillispie got a Technical Foul in the game on Saturday; when asked about it afterwards, he said, “It was stupid. I was stupid. That never helps you. It was not smart. Just gave them two points. I was just stupid. Just stupid. I knew what I was doing. It was not smart. It was just stupid. It didn’t help us, it hurt us. That’s worse than giving up a layup. I wouldn’t accept that from my team. That’s stupid. It wasn’t a bad call. You know I can’t talk about calls, but it was a stupid play on my part.”
- Dick Vitale announced Saturday night during the Michigan State/Ohio State game that he will be working the “Big Monday” game versus Texas on February 5th.
- Football recruit and YouTube phenom Sam McGuffie was at the game as part of a HUGE group of Juniors that Dennis was hosting as part of a “Junior Day”. McGuffie was looking very “gangsta” with a rather terrible looking Philadelphia Phillies hat on crooked. Oh well, I guess if he ends up signing with the good guys, what do we care. Jerry Bluhm advised that I should have “given him a hug and slipped him $50.” Brandon Whittle also wondered if McGuffie “had hurdled anyone yet”.
- Houston Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak, Texans linebackers coach Johnny Holland, former Dallas Cowboy
Dat Nguyen, and current Miami Dolphin Seth McKinney were also in attendance.
- Finally, John Lopez had a pretty good piece in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle. It is worth checking out:
The Aggies host the Iowa State Cyclones at Reed Arena on Wednesday evening at 6:30 on FSN. The group from ISU has dropped 4 consecutive league games after starting out 2-0.
Their latest setback was to OSU in Stillwater on Saturday night by a final score of 62-50.
Iowa State is in the process of making the transition under new head coach Greg McDermott and they are probably a year away from returning to being competitive on a game-by-game basis in the league.
This year’s Cyclone squad is led by Big-12 newcomer Mike Taylor. Taylor, a Juco transfer, is leading the ISU attack by averaging 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.
Complementing Taylor on the inside is 6’9” big man Wesley Johnson who hails from Corsicana, Texas. Johnson, one of the surprising Freshmen in the league is averaging 12 points and 9 rebounds per contest.
If the Aggies come out and handle their business, they should be on the right side of the scoreboard by 15+ points.