Thursday, November 15, 2007

NIT Tip-Off Update

Well, first off, let me apologize to you guys for not getting this put together sooner. I took a new job at my company in September, and well, let’s just say that this fall I will not have nearly the time to dedicate to this project as I have over the past two basketball seasons.

That being said, I am going to try my hardest to get regular reports out to you guys on a timely basis and as my job and home-life will allow.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the Aggie basketball team and their upcoming trip to New York City!!!

The Aggies faced their first big test this year, games in back-to-back nights. They passed not necessarily with flying colors, but they did pass nonetheless.

ORU Recap

On Tuesday night the good guys took on Scott Sutton’s Oral Roberts team (yes, Scott is Eddie’s son and Sean’s brother). ORU, while not a big national name, usually fields a very competitive group. You need to look no farther than last season when they went into Lawrence and knocked off the #3 Jayhawks.

ORU has a pair of guards that would see minutes for just about any team in the country in Robert Jarvis and Adam Liberty. Both players are quick, scrappy guards and will be the backbone of Sutton’s squad this year.

OK, enough about ORU – let’s get to the game from Tuesday night.
The Aggies came out a little bit tight and fell behind 8-to-12 early in the 1st half before they went on a monster run that showed Aggie fans and a national ESPN-U audience just how good this group could be.

From the 12:44 mark of the 1st half, the Aggies outscored the Golden Eagles 29-to-5 to close out the half with a 37-17 lead. The nearly 13 minute run was easily the Aggies’ best stretch of basketball this season.

The best thing about the run was that the Aggies were knocking down shots from all over the floor. Josh Carter, Joe Jones & Derrick Roland each hit three-pointers, and DeAndre Jordan was doing what he does best, crushing people with power two-handed dunks.

On the defensive end of the floor, the Aggies bowed up and put some serious pressure on the ORU perimeter shooters. The defensive charge was led by Dominique Kirk (no surprise) but also Derrick Roland. D-Ro was simply outstanding in helping to shut down both Jarvis and Liberty.

The Golden Eagles shot a putrid 6-for-23 (26%) from the field in the first half, including only going 2-for-11 during the Aggies’ big second half run.

Coming out of the break, the Aggies looked very shaky again on both ends of the floor as ORU went on a 14-to-3 run to cut the Aggies’ 20 point half-time lead to only 9 points at 40-to-31. A big contributing factor to the ORU run was the fact that the Aggies turned the ball over 5 times in the first 5 minutes of the 2nd frame.

Turgeon, trying to stop the rally, pulled 4 of his 5 starters less than 4 minutes into the 2nd half. The guys off the bench (Roland, Davis, Elonu, Mulbach) responded well, and Junior Elonu helped to lead a huge charge that saw the Aggies push the lead right back up to 18 points at 51-33.

From that point on the teams basically went on cruise control leading to the final score of 67-53.

The Aggies were lead by Josh Carter’s 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting. DeAndre Jordan also did not disappoint in scoring 12 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. Jordan is simply a beast, and you guys need to all make it a point to get to Reed Arena and check him out. If he is not one-and-done I will be very surprised.

Scott Sutton also had some nice things to say about the Aggies and also Jordan. “Aggie fans need to get out and watch this young kid play. He's a special player, and he's probably not going to be around here very long. I thought that was a little disappointing, that only 8,400 people showed up.”

Cool. Ouch.

But you understand his point.

Quick Hits from the ORU game.

- 9 players saw double digit minutes for the Aggies with six guys playing 23+ minutes each (Jordan, Sloan, Jones, Kirk, Carter, Roland). The other three players who got into double digit minutes were Elonu, Davis and Mulbach.

- In the 1st half, ORU only made 6 field goals and had 1 assist. What that tells you is that A&M’s defensive pressure really took them out of their normal offensive flow. All but one of their six made baskets was outside of the normal flow of the offense.

- Junior Elonu had his best all-around game as an Aggie. The big sophomore only scored 7 points and had 3 rebounds, but let me tell you, he was single handedly responsible for thwarting the 2nd half run by ORU. His hustle and aggressive play not only propelled the Aggies in the 2nd half, but he also got the crowd on their feet on multiple occasions.

The other game in College Station on Tuesday night saw UTEP knock off Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, setting up a matchup between the Aggies and UTEP with a trip to New York City on the line.

UTEP Recap

Taking a quick look back at Wednesday night’s win over UTEP:

The UTEP Miners came out as hot as a team possibly could in the 1st half of the game. The group from the West Texas Town of El Paso (yes, you should be singing a Marty Robins song in your mind right now) came out and hit 7 of their first 10 three point attempts in pulling out to an early 29-to-19 lead with 8:40 left to go before the break.

The only reason the Aggies were able to hang around by halftime was due to their tenacious inside play. Turgeon’s boys were crashing the boards at a mad pace and grabbed a ridiculous 13 offensive rebounds in the first half. Those 13 offensive boards allowed the Aggies to outscore the Miners 13-to-0 in 2nd chance points heading into the break.

As they headed to the intermission, UTEP was smelling an upset as they had an impressive 42-34 lead. UTEP took control of the first half behind the strength of their 8-for-16 from behind the 3 point arc.

Coming out of the break, UTEP took further control of the game and pushed their lead to 10 points at 46-to-36 when Stefon Jackson slammed home a dunk at the 19:10 mark of the 2nd half.

The Aggies rattled off the next 6 points of the game and cut the lead to 4, but UTEP responded with a little 6 point run of their own. When the dust settled, UTEP held their second 10 point lead of the 2nd half at 52-to-42.

Derrick Roland hit a layup, followed by back-to-back threes by Kirk and Carter, and the Aggies found themselves right back in the game.

From the point where they were down 10 at 42-52, the Aggies went on an 18-to-6 run capped off by a Beau Mulbach free-throw that put the Aggies ahead 60-to-58 at the 7:50 mark of the final frame.
Both teams set up shop, dug in deep and tried to find a little extra energy as the wear of playing in back-to-back games was certainly taking its toll on both groups of kids.

The next 4 minutes of the game seesawed back and forth with both teams taking leads and also saw the scored tied up 4 different times.

At the 2:15 mark, Josh Carter hit a three pointer that finally put the Aggies up for good and allowed them to punch their ticket to the Big Apple. The Aggies defeated the Miners by a final score of 81-76.

Seeing the good guys bounce back from two 10-point second half deficits showed that this group has some heart and will not fold under pressure.

Up next is a quick match up with Ouachita Baptist on Saturday before they head to MSG where they will get their two biggest tests of the young season.

The Aggies will play the Washington Huskies on Wednesday evening before playing either Ohio State or Syracuse on Friday.

Quick Hits from the UTEP game.

- 7 players played double digit minutes on Wednesday night with Dominique Kirk leading the way playing 37 minutes.

- Tuesday night’s hero, Junior Elonu, only played 3 minutes on Wednesday night. I wonder if he was hurt?

- After lighting it up in the first half, UTEP only managed to go 2-for-10 from the 3 point line in the 2nd half.

- One big red flag, A&M on managed to make 23-of-39 free throws. Yikes!

- Part of the reason the Aggies found themselves down at halftime was that they only went 1-for-8 in the 1st half from behind the 3-point line.

- As will most likely be the case in most games, A&M outrebounded UTEP 43 to 28.

I hope to put together a quick thought on Washington for you guys next week as well as a look back at Saturday night’s game against Ouachita Baptist.


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