Senior Day in college basketball is always one of the best days of the year, and Saturday at Reed Arena was no exception.
The Aggies and their fans bid a final farewell to 6 seniors on Saturday afternoon and capped off the emotional day with a convincing 94-78 victory over the visiting Missouri Tigers.
Brian Blackburn, Logan Lee, Josh Johnston, Marlon Pompey, Antanas Kavaliauskas and Acie Law all laced up their sneakers for one last ride at Reed Arena. When it was all said and done there were lots of cheers, lots of tears, two separate ceremonies and a shot from the right wing that will be remembered forever.
The day started off with all 6 seniors being recognized before the game where each player was introduced and presented a framed jersey with their name and number on the back.
As each player walked out with one or both of their parents, they were met by Coach Gillispie, who presented the jerseys to each player. The players then went and stood in front of a large banner bearing their likeness that was set up on the floor.
The day was especially emotional for Pompey and Kavaliauskas, both of whom were playing in front of their mothers for the first time in an Aggie uniform. Pompey brought his mother down from Canada, and Kavaliauskas’s mom joined him all the way from Lithuania.
All six players were greeted with great applause but none louder than when Acie was introduced to the crowd. It was so loud at times that you could not even make out what the PA announcer was saying into the microphone.
The ceremonies wrapped up with about 3 minutes remaining before tip-off, and the Aggies did not even have time to head back into the locker room for final preparations.
Once the game got under way it quickly became the Antanas Kavaliauskas show. The big fella scored the game’s first 7 points as the Aggies jumped out to a 9-0 lead over the first 2+ minutes.
From that point the two teams both began to tread water and ended up trading baskets back and forth until Acie picked up his 2nd foul of the afternoon and was relegated to the bench at the 9:53 mark.
When he headed to the bench, Acie joined Joe Jones there as Joe was also pulled from the game with 2 fouls, his coming at the 10:44 mark. Both Acie and Joe would spend the remainder of the half watching from the bench.
A Dominique Kirk layup with 9:24 remaining before the half gave the Aggies their largest lead of the period, 10 points at 27-17. From that point, Missouri went on a quick and furious 11-1 run that saw them tie the score at 28 each only 2+ minutes later.
The final seven minutes of the half saw each team put up 14 more points, and as they headed to the break the Aggies and Tigers were all locked up at 42 apiece.
The Aggies were paced by AK’s 11 points and 4 rebounds, and Missouri was being lead by Stefhon Hannah who had 13 points and 3 assists in the first half.
Personally, the thing that stood out most from the first half was how many minutes the Aggies got from their bench. Gillispie used 6 players off his bench in the first frame, led by Donald Sloan (13 minutes) and Marlon Pompey (12 minutes). Roland, Lee, Davis and Elonu all also saw a few minutes.
Pompey made the most of his 12 minutes and seemed to have a little extra energy in his step as he managed to knock down all 3 of his field goal attempts.
I am glad that Gillispie has enough faith in his bench to go 6 guys deep in your final conference game, but the bottom line is that you need to have most of your production coming from your 5 starters, and it is certainly difficult for them to contribute when they are sitting on the bench.
Out of the break, Missouri’s Marshall Brown hit the first bucket of the half to give the Tigers a 44-42 lead, and it looked as if we may be setting in for a game much closer than any of us would have expected.Well, a little something happened between here and there, and Kavaliauskas was not to be denied in his final game at College Station.
The Aggies promptly rattled off a 25-to-6 run that saw them turn the two point deficit into a 17 point lead at 67-50. Kavaliauskas scored 9 of the Aggies’ first 12 points in the second half that helped kick-start the big run.
When the run was over and the Aggies were up by 17, the game too was pretty much over at that point. Simply put, Missouri does not yet have the firepower on their roster to recover from that large of a deficit on the road against the top half of the league.
The later part of the 2nd half saw the Aggies push the lead to as many as 20 points on three different occasions. The strength of the Aggies’ dominance in the later part of the game was primarily due to threeguys- Josh Carter, Acie Law and Antanas Kavaliauskas.
Josh finished the game with a very solid 20 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
Acie Law bid adieu to Reed Arena with 20 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
Finally, the most dominating performance of the day came from Antanas Kavaliauskas who had a career-high 26 points on a very impressive 11-of-12 from the floor.
Needless to say, I guess AK wanted to put on a good show for his mother. Not only was it the first time she had seen him play since he has been an Aggie, it was the first time he had seen her since May of last year.
Gillispie, having a little fun with Antanas after the game, told him he should not have had his one miss blocked by Mizzou’s Marshall Brown and that they would work on it in practice on Monday morning.
After everyone shared a laugh about him giving AK a hard time, he followed it up by saying, “Even Marlon found a way to go 4-for-4.”
The ovation that Acie received when he left the game was awesome and got even louder when he and Coach shared a hug on the sideline.
Despite Antanas’ career day and Acie’s final game at Reed Arena, the best moment from Senior Day had to have come from senior Brian Blackburn.
Blackburn, a 4 year scout team member for the Aggie Basketball team, stands at 5’10” and weighs 165 lbs. and had only played a total of 9 minutes all season long (over 6 games).
With about 1:30 left in the game, the crowd started up the “Blackburn, Blackburn, Blackburn” chant while Brian buried his head in his warm-ups on the bench trying not to laugh.Without hesitation Coach went to get Brian off the bench to put him in the game.
On the Aggies’ next possession, Brian got the ball on the wing and stepped behind a screen from Joe Jones and let a three pointer fly as the crowed roared while the ball was in the air and then moaned as it narrowly missed and ricocheted off the rim.
On the Aggies’ final possession, the guys got the ball in Brian’s hands again, and this time he let one fly from just off the right elbow that hit the rim, bounced off the backboard and finally found the bottom of the net.
It was Brian’s first field-goal of the season and brought the loudest cheer of the day from the record crowd of 13,203. As the buzzer sounded the entire bench went over and mobbed Blackburn. It was a pretty cool scene and certainly one that gave you goose-bumps.
To me, seeing what happened with Brian Blackburn is the epitome of what Senior Day is all about.
It was a very emotional day, and it was great to send Acie and the other 5 seniors out with a win.
Gillispie also made note of the emotions when he said, “I’ve spent three years trying to make Acie cry by saying mean things to him, but I have never seen him tear up. Today at shootaround was the first time I had seen him actually cry.”
Gillispie was also showering Acie with praise after the game and then turned and looked at him and said, “We’re saying this now, but on Monday, none of it counts, alright!”
After the game each of the 6 seniors took the microphone and thanked their teammates, coaches, fans and families.
I think the two best lines were from Marlon who said, “Thanks for being here for us, I don’t know how many of you guys were here when we were 0-16, well, (he stopped and looked around the arena), I know most of you guys weren’t here……”
And from Acie who simply declared, “We are nowhere close to being done yet, we still need to go win a national championship.”
Needless to say, that brought yet another wild cheer from the fans in the arena.
Saturday’s win brought to a close the best regular season for the Aggies in the history of the Big 12, but everyone was certainly quick to acknowledge that they still have a lot of work to do and everything starts over on Monday morning.
- The coaches named Billy Gillispie Big 12 Coach of the Year on Sunday.
- The coaches also made Acie Law 1st team All-Big 12 as a unanimous selection. Joe Jones was named 2nd team while Josh Carter and Antanas Kavaliauskas received honorable mention awards.
- The full slate of Big 12 awards can be found here:
- The Associated Press releases their conference awards Monday thru Wednesday.
- Joe Jones disappeared again on Saturday only scoring 3 points on 1-for-5 from the field. Some of his looks were limited by Kavaliauskas’ big day, but Joe has to be better (like he was against Baylor and Texas) for the Aggies to make a deep run in March.
- Donald Sloan had 7 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists off the bench in 25 minutes of action.
- The Aggies’ 25 wins are a regular season record and one shy of their all-time high.
- 60 of the Aggies’ 94 points were “in the paint”, a high for the season.
- Barry Trammel, a columnist for The Oklahoman in OKC, had this to say in his Cheers/Jeers section on Sunday when he gave a Jeer to Kansas. “To Kansas' bogus Big 12 championship. The Jayhawks didn't go to College Station, Austin or Stillwater. They went 10-0 against the North Division. Meanwhile, A&M won at Kansas, plus went through the much-tougher South.”
The Aggies travel to Oklahoma City for the Big 12 tournament. In their first game (6:00 PM Friday) they will play the winner of Thursday’s Oklahoma State / Nebraska game. The game will be carried by ESPN+.
We will be in attendance again this year and are looking forward to bringing you guys live updates from OKC.
The tournament schedule is as follows:
Thursday, March 8
Game 1: No. 8 Iowa State vs. No. 9 Oklahoma (ESPNU and ESPN Plus) 11:30 a.m.
Game 2: No. 5 Texas Tech vs. No. 12 Colorado (ESPNU and ESPN Plus) 2:00 p.m.
Game 3: No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 10 Nebraska (ESPN Plus) 6:00 p.m.
Game 4: No. 6 Missouri vs. No. 11 Baylor (ESPN2) 8:20 p.m.
Friday, March 9
Game 5: No. 1 Kansas vs. ISU/OU winner (ESPNU and ESPN Plus) 11:30 a.m.
Game 6: No. 4 Kansas State vs. TTU/CU winner (ESPNU and ESPN Plus) 2:00 p.m.
Game 7: No. 2 Texas A&M vs. OSU/NU winner (ESPN Plus) 6:00 p.m.
Game 8: No. 3 Texas vs. MU/BU winner (ESPN Plus) 8:20 p.m.
Saturday, March 10
Game 9: Friday Afternoon Winners (ESPN2 and ESPN Plus) 1:00 p.m.
Game 10: Friday Evening Winners (ESPN2 and ESPN Plus) 3:20 p.m.
Sunday, March 11
Game 11: Semifinal Winners (ESPN) 2:00 p.m.