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Basketball coaches reflect on past weekend, brace for final SEC stretch

Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 01:02

 

Johnny Manziel doesn’t suit up for either A&M basketball team, but women’s basketball head coach Gary Blair said Manziel’s meteoric 2012 rise has affected the entire athletic department, even comparing Manziel to another young national icon: Justin Bieber.

On topics ranging from Bieber to upcoming conference games, Blair and men’s basketball head coach Billy Kennedy addressed the media on Monday.

Blair chose to begin the press conference, not with his team’s narrow 50-48 road win over then-No. 15 South Carolina on Sunday, but by praising the achievements of A&M sports as a whole. On Sunday alone, to go with the women’s basketball achievement, A&M softball beat No. 19 UCLA, men’s tennis beat No. 4 Ohio State and women’s tennis beat No. 12 Virginia.

 “You can see the historic thing that happened this weekend, and how many times has that happened at any university at any time?” Blair said.

Blair credited Manziel for much of the attention currently enjoyed by A&M athletics, likening his success to the time “when Justin Bieber crashed the scene.”

“Hopefully we will have him for a couple more years while we also develop the Kelsey Bones or the Nicole Morgans in softball, and I think that’s very special.”

While the No. 11 women have won seven straight games and sit behind only Tennessee in the SEC standings at 9-1, the men have struggled with consistency. After a win at home against No. 20 Missouri, Kennedy’s team followed with a 46-52 loss in Georgia on Saturday.

Kennedy said, for his team, it comes down to shooting.

“With the stretch run in the eight games that are left, we’ve got to step up and start making open shots,” Kennedy said.

He said he has taken steps to improving the men’s team’s shooting woes.

“We’re going to get into the gym and shoot more and chart every shot,” Kennedy said. “We had 20 really good looks, when you break the film down, and missed them.”

While Kennedy said fatigue — brought on by the fact he plays only eight players many games — is a factor, he said it shouldn’t affect performance to this extent.

“We’re not a really athletic team where we can bounce right back physically,” Kennedy said. “The good teams are able to bounce back. We’ve to get to where we can physically and mentally bounce back in those situations. Everybody in our league has gone through that.”

The men (14-9, 4-6) next take on Ole Miss at home on Wednesday. Kennedy said Ole Miss — behind the leading scorer in the SEC in Marshall Henderson — is the best offensive team in the league.

“This is a very explosive offensive team, one that’s a tough matchup for us,” Kennedy said.

Blair’s team will see action Thursday at home against Florida. Recent play has drawn comparisons to Blair’s 2010 National Championship team, which Blair was quick to discount, though he said he is pleased with the progress of his players.

“People are not giving us credit that we have four starters gone from last year and Bone is the only one back, and it’s like she’s been to chemistry class and we’ve reinvented Kelsey Bone,” Blair said.

Blair said the team’s youth prevents it from reaching 2010 levels on defense but that the stats are still “pretty doggone good.” He said his team must battle complacency.

“We have six left,” Blair said. “We still have two monsters to play, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, but we have four here at home.”

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