Monday, January 19, 2009

Look Back At Oklahoma / Look Ahead To Kansas (8:00 Tonight - ESPN)

Oklahoma Rewind

On Saturday afternoon - it was a very similar pattern for the Aggies.

Similar to games against Alabama, Arizona and Oklahoma State, they got off to a terrible start, dug down deep and put together a huge rally.

This time, kind of like what happened in Stillwater a week ago, the Aggies came up just a bit short in falling to OU at Reed Arena 69-63. The Aggies' start was so bad against the Sooners that through the first 10:28 of the game they only managed to score 6 points. Turgeon had this to say, "We looked like we were walking on eggshells. I thought that we were really nervous. When you are not aggressive, that gets you farther away from the basket, and I think that was all just nerves and not being ready to play at the start."

At that point in the game (9:32), the Aggies were trailing 19-6 before Josh Carter scored 5 straight points to start a little run to get them back into the game.

The Aggies rallied all the way back to being down five at 25-20 with 3:20 left to play in the first half, and the 14-6 run put the scoring margin back at a manageable level. As the two teams headed to the break, the Aggies were still down five points at 30-25, and Reed Arena was rockin' as the crowd of 12,720 (the biggest of the season) was instrumental in helping to sustain the rally.

Coming out of the half, OU came out and decked the Aggies a few times and pushed their lead all the way back up to 14 points, two different times. Their last 14 point lead was at 51-37 with 10:04 on the clock.

Just when it started to look as if the Sooners may be ready to seal the deal and close out the game, the Aggies made another improbable run and cut the Sooner lead all the way to two points when Donald Sloan hit a three pointer to make it 59-57 in favor of OU. The 20-to-8 run by the Aggies was very impressive and with every basket or defensive stop the crowd at Reed rose to nearly deafening levels. I have not heard Reed that loud since Acie dropped "The Shot" on Daniel Gibson and the #6 Longhorns in March of 2006, nearly two years ago.

Unfortunately for Turgeon's bunch and the folks at Reed, there was just too much Austin Johnson.

If you did not get to see the game, Austin Johnson (who by the way needs to go ahead and graduate already, seems like he has been there for 7 years now....) hit two crushing three's to help stave off the Aggie rally in the 2nd half.

The first of Johnson's huge shots was from about 26 feet (5 feet behind the three point line) as the shot clock was expiring - this was right after Carter hit a three to cut the OU lead to 56-52.

The second of Johnson's crushing three point baskets came right after Sloan hit his three to cut the Sooner lead to 59-57. In fact, Johnson scored 7 of the Sooner's final 10 points to help put the final score at 69-63, in favor of OU.

OK - A real quick note on the job that the Aggies did on All-Everything Blake Griffin. The Aggies held Griffin to his 2nd lowest point total of the season (16) and held him to a tie for the fewest number of rebounds this season (6). The Aggies did a masterful job holding him below his averages of 22.4 points and 13.8 rebounds. I also think it is worth pointing out that the Aggies held the Big 12's best freshman, Willie Warren, to only 9 points and 3 rebounds. Entering the game, Warren had scored double-digits in 9 of his last 10 games, including outbursts of 35 points and 31 points.

In the end, there was just too much Austin Johnson.

I also told a couple of you guys that Oklahoma played man-to-man defense about as good as you will ever see on Saturday. I never gave their defensive efforts a second thought, but after seeing them in person for the first time, they were quite impressive on the defensive end.

I think the only other thing I want to point out is, "What happened to Junior Elonu?" The Aggies' best player over the course of the last 5 or 6 games got into early foul trouble, 2 fouls in the first 3:13 of the game and was relegated to the bench for most of the first half. The big guy only played a total of 7 minutes in the first half. He did however battle back in the second half (played 18 of a possible 20 minutes) and had 7 points and 5 rebounds on the night. Both of the calls on Elonu early in the game were highly questionable and the crowd let the officials know as much (yes, Aggies do boo and yes, that is ok....). I am not at all blaming the refs for what happened with Big Chin, I just think you need to have #41 on the court if you have any hope of knocking off the #5 team in the country.

OK - That's it on OU - The Aggies gave it a great effort and once again this group of guys proved that they are going to be resiliant and continute to battle back. This team is really starting to develop a real toughness about them.

Texas A&M Leaders vs. OU
Josh Carter - 17 Points, 7 Rebounds
B.J. Holmes - 11 Points (6-for-6 from the Free Throw line)
Davis, Roland, Sloan - 8 Points each

OU Leaders vs. Texas A&M
Austin Johnson - 19 Points, 7 Assists
Blake Griffin - 16 Points, 6 Rebounds
Taylor Griffin - 11 Points

Alright - Now that we have that out of the way - no rest for the weary - the Aggies get right back at it tonight when they take on the Kansas Jayhaws in Lawrence on ESPN's Big Monday.

Kansas Look-ahead

The biggest storyline here is that Mark Turgeon will be returning to Phog Allen Fieldhouse for the first time ever as an opposing coach. Turgeon spent all of 1984 through 1992 as either a player or coach in Lawrence as part of the KU program, but this will be the first time he will be back in the building as an opposing coach.

After Saturday's game, when asked about the visitor's locker room at Allen Fieldhouse, Turgeon said he didn't know anything about it but was sure that "it is not very nice....". You can tell that Turgeon will be a touch emotional tonight, especially when asked about his big return to Lawrence, he added statements such as, "I can tell you, that place makes me feel good. So I know I’m going to coach well that night."

There has also been a lot of talk on the internet the past couple of days about this quote from Turgeon's wife Ann to a reporter from Wichita, "I don't think it will be hard for him, I don't think that. Will it be fun? Gosh, I hope so. That means we will have walked out of there with a win. Walking out onto that court for the first time, before the game, might be a little hard. But then his competitive side and his pride and dedication to his team will kick in. He wants to make this university proud, so he's going to hopefully kick KU's tail."

Give 'em hell Ann!!!!

OK - Let's look at a few nuts and bolts.

Bill Self lost his entire starting 5 and his top 6 scorers from last season, not many programs can recover from that, but KU is hanging pretty tough this year. They are nowhere near an elite team, but they are still pretty darn good. They are led by senior guard Sherron Collins who is averaging 18.5 points and 5.2 assists per game this year. Another couple of names to keep an eye on are freshman Tyshawn Taylor (10.4 ppg) and Cole Aldrich (15.3 ppg).

The Jayhawks are 13-4 on the year and are coming off a 73-65 win over Colorado in Boulder on Saturday night.

If there is ever a year that you can pick-off the Jayhawks, this may be it. The defending national champions are just a shell of last year's team, and Bill Self is really having to work his tail off to get these kids to play at a high level.

The bad news for Aggie fans? There is not a tougher building to win in on the road than Allen Fieldhouse. How tough is it? Well, here is some perspective for you. The last team to win there? The Texas Aggies in 2006 when Acie again dropped a huge 3 to upset KU. So, they have not lost at home in nearly 2 years, but does this year's Aggie bunch have it in them to pull off the upset?

I think that the game will go one of two ways. I think the Aggies either lose by 5 or lose by 20. I don't think this year's team has the offensive fire-power to go into Lawrence and leave with a win, but I also think this game feels a lot like a "two steps forward, 10 steps back" type of game. I can easily see the wheels coming off and having them commit way too many turnovers, miss way too many shots and get sloppy on defense. If they get off to another bad start and the crowd gets all over them it could get ugly. Again, I hope like heck that I am wrong and they can take what they learned against Baylor and Oklahoma and contiune to build on it and go up there and steal a win.

If they can just keep their head above water and never fall behind by more than ~3 possessions, I think they may also be able to put themselves in a position to pull the upset. They will have to play smart, they will have to force the tempo of the game, and they will have to keep the crowd out of it.

Here is to hoping it is a heck of a game!!!

Aggie Hoops Report Score Prediction:
Texas A&M 66
Kansas 71

This has been a wicked stretch for the Aggies -- 3 games in 6 days, but after this, they get the week off before traveling to Austin on Saturday to take on Rick Barnes and his UT Longhorns.

We'll talk to you guys tomorrow.

Carry on.


At 1/19/2009 5:18 PM, Blogger Hiphopopotamus said...

Nice read. I think you're selling your guys a bit short, but hope you're right because I'll be plenty happy with a five point win tonight.

Here's a link to my mini-preview...

At 1/20/2009 4:26 PM, Blogger Hiphopopotamus said...

Guess you were right.


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