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Men's basketball braces for Bulldogs in Mississippi matchup

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 18:01

The Texas A&M men’s basketball team takes on Mississippi State (7-11, 2-4) on Wednesday. The Aggies (12-7, 2-4) look to avoid a five game losing streak which would tie the longest losing streak since head coach Billy Kennedy took over prior to last season.

With a rotation of only nine players, Kennedy said that lack of depth and consistency has plagued the team and is a cause of their recent struggles.

“We don’t get consistent effort from nine guys,” Kennedy said. “We’re not good enough or talented enough for these guys to just carry us.”

Mississippi State is in a similar situation. Both teams started out 2-0 in conference play only to lose their next four conference games.

Kennedy said junior guard Jalen Steele will be a defensive focus for A&M.

“We will lock in on [Steele] because I think he is their best player and he is the most experience player,” Kennedy said.

Steele (9.4 points per game) sits fourth on his team in scoring and is one of seven Bulldogs averaging seven points or more per game.

Kennedy said both teams look to convert defensive pressure into offensive opportunities.

“They trap some and they change defenses,” Kennedy said. “They struggle scoring in the half-court. Hopefully, we can turn them over some and score off of our defense, which we learned against Georgia. We are going to have to do more of that just to get some easy baskets in transition.”

Although senior guard Elston Turner has averaged just 10 points per game since his 40-point outburst against Kentucky, the attention from opposing defenses has not let up since his big game. Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray said Elston Turner as well as senior forward Ray Turner makes it hard to play against the Aggies.

“Having [Elston] makes a huge difference,” Ray said. “I think that’s a huge difference in a team and I think, in the non-conference play [Ray] did a pretty good job of scoring the ball around the basket for them.”

Texas A&M seems to stay upbeat even after consecutive losses. Junior guard Fabyon Harris has increased his output of late, averaging over 13.5 points per game in the last three games.

Harris said that it’s tough losing, but a positive attitude in practice and unity will help the Aggies get through this rough patch.

“[We have to] keep grinding and not give up on each other,” Harris said. “Go in practice with a good mindset and just stick together.”

On the subject of freshmen Alex Caruso and J’Mychal Reese, each contributing more than 23 minutes per game, Kennedy praised their skillsets and performance but said their struggles come with the territory.

“When you play young, first-year guys at the SEC level, you are going to have some ups and downs and some inconsistencies,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said A&M basketball is in the midst of a “transition period.”

“We will have seven new guys next year,” Kennedy said. “When you have to restore your program with 13 new guys in two years, it takes time. Right now we are building a culture of togetherness and toughness and we can see that coming together.”

Tipoff is set for 8:00 P.M.

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