Monday, January 12, 2009

Aggies Drop Opener at OSU (long)

Well, from the opening tip on Saturday night, it was apparent that the Aggies were going to be in for a heck of a fight if they wanted to upset the Cowboys in Stillwater.

I've got a couple of things I want to talk about, but let's first take a look at what happened in a forgettable 40 minutes in Stillwater.

OSU came out with tons of energy and bounce in their step and used a whole slew of Aggie turnovers to whip the crowd into a frenzy and propel themselves to a commanding 16-4 lead. The Aggies looked like they got busted in the chin and had no idea what hit them. I guess that is what can happen when you simply sleepwalk for 7 straight games before conference play. Must be hard to wake up.

The two teams traded buckets for a couple of possessions before OSU Fresman Keiton Page hit a three pointer with just under 8 minutes left that pushed the OSU lead to 30-16. Turgeon called a 30 second timeout in an attempt to stop the bleeding and I am not sure what he said, but it apparently worked.

Just when I was about to think that they were going to pack it in and call it a night, the Aggies dug down and decided to actuall make a fight out of it. Behind BJ Homes and Chinemelu Elonu, the Aggies fought all the way back to cut the OSU deficit to 2 points at 32-30. The 14-2 run is exactly what the good guys needed and it came at the hands of two guys that are looking like they want to become the face of the 2009 conference run for the Aggies. Of the 14 points scored during the run, 7 were scored by Holmes who again continues to prove that he wants to be a difference maker on this squad.

Heading to the break, the Aggies managed to cut the OSU lead all the way back to 4 points at 36-32 and I will tell you this, the guts that they displayed in order to get back into the game caught me by surprise. The easy thing to do would have been for them to pack-it-in and just cruise along and try not to lose by 30. If you did not see the game, I can not tell you how awesome Elonu and Holmes were over that stretch. These two guys both look like they are on the verge of breaking out and becoming big-time impact players.

Look, the A&M run was certainly aided by OSU deciding to miss a ton of shots all the sudden, but you don't crawl out of that kind of early hole without showing some grit and determination. I will certainly give the guys credit for fighting back.

Well, whatever happened in the Aggie locker room at halftime certainly did not match what happened in the OSU locker room because the Cowboys came out and immediately hit back-to-back three pointers and again punched the Aggies in the face. The precarious OSU lead of 4 points was suddenly 10 and the Cowboys never looked back.

OSU scored their 6 points right out of the break while the Aggies scored 6 points over the first 7 minutes of the second half. During that same 7 minute stretch the Cowboys scored 19 points which more or less put the game on ice at 55-38, even with 13 minutes left. The Aggies could have dug out of one hole like that, but they were not going to do so twice in the same game, they simply do not have the offensive fire-power to continuously battle back from behind.

The Aggies did go on a little run to cut the OSU lead to 8 at 62-54 with 5:36 left, but that was as close as they would get before OSU put the final number at 72-61.

A few things to think about:
A&M Assists - 6
A&M Turnover - 16
OSU Points Off Turnovers - 27
A&M Points Off Turnovers - 6
Josh Carter Points - 0 (0-for-7 from the field)
Bryan Davis - 4 points, 5 turnovers, 26 minutes
Guys not named Homes - 0-for-8 from behind the arc

OK - That's enough about the game, but I do want to talk for a moment about three things:

1.) Junior Elonu and BJ Holmes - Elonu is quickly becoming one of the best big men in the league and a force in the paint for the Aggies. The big fella had 20 points and 12 rebounds in Stillwater on Saturday and if everyone else on the team would have played with his passion and emotion I guarantee you that the final would have been closer than 11. Another guy that is playing the best ball of his career is sophomore guard BJ Homes. The baby faced guard is killing opponents and has become the best (and most reliable) shooter on the team. Holmes was awesome off the bench on Saturday night adding 19 points including 4-of-7 from downtown (the only Aggie to make a 3) and was an awesome 7-for-7 from the free-throw line. Isn't it about time Holmes was moved into the starting lineup?

2.) Defensive switching and help - I, for the life of me, can not figure out what A&M's defensive philosophy is when it comes to defending ball screens. Are they supposed to fight through? Are they supposed to switch? Are they supposed to flash help? Are they supposed to back-side rotate? I have seen flashes of all, but not very often when all 5 defenders seem to be on the same page. More often than not what it seems to be is some sort of controlled-chaos based system. Obviously, Turgeon has a philosophy he is trying to teach, but at this point I can not seem to figure it out. What kills me is when a defender comes up with a guy setting a screen and both Aggie defenders stay with the man setting the screen and let the guy with the ball simply run free on the wing or to the basket. It was frustrating to see them continuously make the same mistakes over and over and over and over again on Saturday night. Thanks for letting me rant.

3.) What if I offered you 1-and-1 on Friday? If we went to lunch on Friday last week and I offered you and A&M conference record of 1-and-1 after two games (at OSU and home vs. Baylor) would you have taken it? My guess is that to a man, the answer would have been "yes". What am I getting at? Well, I'm not about to say that a win vs. #21 Baylor on Wednesday will fix all of the Aggies' problems, but it sure will help to settle things down quite a bit. I'm a little concerned that the students are not back until next week - Lord knows Turgeon's kids need all the help they can get at Reed on Wednesday - and having a full slate of 4,000 students there can make The Brown Barn on the Brazos a heck of a tough place to win. I guess what else I am trying to say is that these first 5 games for the Aggies are as tough as it is going to get and we talked about needing to win 2 of them. I'm not going to jump ship after one horrible performance in Stillwater, but I'll tell you this much, the Aggies sure do need to play a heck of a game on Wednesday night to prove that they belong. Is it a proverbial "must win" game? Probably not, but if you drop one to Baylor, you better be ready to beat #6 Oklahoma on Saturday............

OK - I think I'm done. Sorry this was so long - I had a lot of things to say I guess.

We'll have a few quick hits for you guys before tip off on Wednesday (8:30 ESPN2-HD).

Carry on.

(p.s. - my editor did not review this, so sorry for all the poor grammatical errors.)


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