Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Winthrop Recap

The Aggies wrapped up the non-conference portion of their schedule last night with an impressive win over a very good Winthrop team by a final score of 71-51.

The game was actually much closer than the final score would indicate. Winthrop threw a stretching 2-2-1 zone at the Aggies most of the night while the Aggies displayed fierce man-to-man defense which we have not seen since probably the UCLA game. The combination of these two, at times, nearly brought the pace of the game to a grinding halt.

The Aggies defensive intensity was so good to start the game that Winthrop only managed to score 8 points (on 3 made baskets) the first 12 minutes. Winthrop also had 9 misses and 6 turnovers in the same timeframe.

Behind the strength of two Josh Carter three point baskets, the Aggies jumped out to a 21-8 lead. Winthrop finally settled in to work the margin back to within 6 points at 25-19 before the Aggies pulled back out to take a 33-22 lead into the half.

The teams traded baskets early in the second half with Winthrop managing to cut the Aggie lead to 7 points on three different occasions, the last time at the 11:25 mark by a score of 49-42. The good guys finished the game on a 22-9 run pushing the final margin to 71-51.

The second half was highlighted by great outside shooting from Law and Carter, who combined for 5 threes in the 2nd frame, and the superior post play of Antanas Kavaliauskas. AK was outstanding and finished with 20 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

The guards did a fantastic job of working the ball into Kavaliauskas in the second half using great ball reversal on the perimeter and AK establishing a weak side seal on the inside against the Winthrop zone.

Dominique Kirk did a fantastic job helping to shut down Torrell Martin, the Big South pre-season player-of-the-year, holding him to only 9 points on the evening. The only time Martin got loose for an extended stretch was when he was working against Donald Sloan midway through the 2nd half.

Overall, the Aggies looked very good last night. Winthrop is an athletic bunch and is a very well coached group. The win is a great way to head into conference play which begins on Saturday against K-State.

Some quick hits:
- Joe Jones continued to struggle with fouls last night. He finished the night with 4 points and 4 fouls in 24 minutes of action. It was more of the same that we have discussed before, not enough guarding with his feet and body and too much with his hands and arms. I’m not ready to throw up a red flag on Joe just yet, but we’re getting very close to a point where it could be a major concern.

- Jerrod Johnson (backup QB) was in uniform last night for the first time. Jerrod is going to have to work very hard to earn a spot in the rotation and make a contribution this season.

- Martellus Bennett (starting TE) was not in uniform last night. There seems to be conflicting stories as to whether or not Martellus will actually join the team. Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express News feels that Martellus will in fact join the team. Terrance Harris of the Houston Chronicle feels that he will not. My guess is that we will not see Martellus in an Aggie basketball uniform again.

- The Aggies have not lost a non-conference home game in Billy Gillispie’s 3 years as the Head Coach of the Aggies.

- AK’s double-double (20 points / 10 rebounds) was the first of his career.

- Only 7 people (8 if you count Roland’s 1 minute) played last night with Pompey and Sloan the only two people making contributions off the bench.

- I guess Josh Carter is a man of his word. After the UCLA game, Josh said “I was just focusing on being more aggressive. I watched film on the last two games. I wasn't taking shots when I had them.” Josh has since connected on 31 of 51 shots (61%) including 24 of 38 (63%) from behind the arc over his last 5 games. Needless to say, Josh is red-hot right now.

- Josh Carter was named Big 12 Player of the Week yesterday. This is a nice reward for his performance against Grambling. Unfortunately, he shares this week’s honor with Longar Longar of Oklahoma (No, I did not mistype that name. Yes, his name really is Longar Longar.)

- The Aggies are now 12-2 on the year and their 12 wins set a school record for most regular-season non-conference wins in a season.

Looking Ahead:
I won’t have time to put out a full preview for K-State, but they are a group of guys that are really starting to come together. After struggling early on, they have managed to win 6 in a row and close out their non-conference slate tonight with a matchup against Xavier on ESPN2 at 6:00.

Cartier Martin has 1st team all-big 12 potential and freshman phenom Bill Walker is likely a one-and-done NBA guy. They also feature a 7’3” guy in Jason Bennett, a guy with a bleach-blonde Mohawk in Ryan Patzwald, and a thug who cold cocked a guy from Cal during a game earlier this year in Luis Colon.

Sounds like the perfect Bob Huggins group doesn’t it?

From a basketball perspective, the Aggies are fortunate to have K-State early in the season and at home. I think they may be a group that gets markedly better as the season goes on.

Last year the Wildcats beat A&M 58-54 in Manhattan and I’m sure that Gillispie will be certain to remind them of that fact during practice this week.

This Week in the Big 12

Saturday – January 6
Oklahoma @ Texas Tech 12:30 ESPN+
Texas @ Colorado 2:00 ESPN+
Baylor @ Oklahoma State 5:00 (no TV)
Iowa State @ Missoui 5:00 (no local TV – Iowa and Missouri only)
Kansas State @ Texas A&M 7:00 ESPN+ (Ch. 51 KNWS in Houston / Ch. 12 KTXA in Dallas)
Western Kentucky @ Nebraska 7:00 (no TV)

Sunday – January 7
Kansas @ South Carolina 3:30 CBS

Carry on.


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