Texas A&M men’s basketball entered Tuesday’s conference battle with LSU 2-4 in SEC play, looking to bounce back after a 61-50 loss at Ole Miss. LSU meanwhile entered the game with a 5-3 record in SEC play with freshman guard Cameron Thomas playing extremely well, in fact leading the conference with 21.7 points per game.
LSU held A&M in check for most of the game, leading for 77.7 percent of time with the Aggies struggling to find a rhythm from the field for two full halves. LSU, led by Thomas who topped all scorers with 28 points, shot a 47.2 field goal percentage and hit 34.5 percent of the team’s threes, which topped A&M’s 31.6. The Aggies struggled from behind the arc in the first half, hitting only 25 percent of threes, but found the bottom of the basket at a 38.9 percent rate in the second half.
LSU weathered a second-half push by the Aggies and ultimately pulled through to come out on top 78-66. The Tigers went on an 18-0 scoring run to close out the game as A&M went cold from the field late in the second half, missing its last 15 field goals.
Senior guard Savion Flagg said although LSU came out hot early on, he felt like the Aggies kept fighting.
“From the jump they got the first punch on us, but I feel like for the next 36 minutes we came out and kept throwing punches and fought back into the game,” Flagg said. “Everyone's energy and spirit was in the right spot.”
The Aggies also struggled to get opportunities from the free-throw line for a large portion of the game as they were only able to attempt nine while LSU found its way to the stripe 20 times, hitting 18 of its attempts.
Despite trailing most of the game, A&M did have a stretch in the second half when they got several good looks in a row and got hot from the field. A&M coach Buzz Williams said it was the best chemistry the team has had all season.
“I thought it was the most connected we’d been all season, not just in conference play,” Williams said. “I think that that effort and the spirit in which we were connected and competing with, I honestly believe that’s why we did have a sustainable period of offense.”
One bright spot to take from the loss is that the Aggie bench logged 51 points and had 11 different players score. Flagg said seeing all those different guys score helped give the team confidence.
“Seeing a variety of guys hit shots gave the team a lot of confidence,” Flagg said. “This game everybody pitched in… we could run plays for everybody not just one person.”
Williams said he was proud of all the guys and thought everybody gave everything they possibly could, despite the loss.
“[I’m] just really thankful and excited about how hard all 11 guys played along with Luke [McGhee],” Williams said. “I just thought we gave our absolute best.”
Another positive Flagg said was that the Aggies were able to play a better brand of basketball by not turning the ball over so often.
“This is the best game we've had in the turnover category,” Flagg said. “We usually have eight turnovers at halftime, and we finished the game with eight so I would say that’s a big thing that kept us in the game.”
Williams said while it was still a hard loss, he can clearly see the improvement in his team.
“That narrow path that we’re on was visible tonight,” Williams said. “[We had our] lowest number of turnovers for the season, lowest turnover percentage of the season, best job that we’ve had on the offensive glass – we almost doubled them in offensive rebounds. So we did so many good things.”
The Aggies have the chance to get back in the win column this Saturday as they head to Manhattan, Kan., for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. A&M will look to extend its win streak against Kansas State to three games after their last two meetings came at home in 2019 and 2015.