Strong start fades for men's basketball
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 18:01
After a disappointing 14-18 season that led to the first missed NCAA tournament for A&M since 2005 in its last season in the Big 12, the Texas A&M men’s basketball team looked to get off strong in the second season of Billy Kennedy’s reign as head coach.
The season got off to a fast start — fans came out and A&M reeled off wins, going 7-1 to begin play.
Louisiana Tech, Troy and Prairie View A&M made their way to College Station and the Aggies took care of them, averaging 78 points per game while yielding 61 points per game.
Although the team was off to a good star head coach Billy Kennedy said he was worried about his team.
"Anytime you see ugly basketball, you don't feel great about it," Kennedy said. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us. We've got to do a better job defending against ball screens. The level of competition is going to pick up and we'll learn a lot more about ourselves in the next few days."
The Aggies traveled to Missouri for the CBE Classic where Kennedy's fears came to fruition. A&M dropped the game to St. Louis and were held under 50 points for the first time of the season.
However, Texas A&M ended the classic with a last second three-point game-winning shot by senior guard Elston Turner, who said the fear of overtime caused him to shoot the three to give his team the win.
"I didn't want it to go into overtime," Turner said. "I wanted to win the game for my team. As coach Kennedy said it's a great team win."
The Aggies used that win to propel them over the next few games. They added three games to their win streak, beating Northwestern State, Houston and Stephen F. Austin.
Through the first 14 games of the season the Aggies stood strong at 11-3 (1-0) record. The only blips on their record were against St. Louis, Oklahoma and Southern.
The 11th win on the season was also the program’s first-ever SEC win as A&M beat Arkansas 69-51. Sophomore forward Kourtney Roberson had 12 rebounds in the game as the Aggies out rebounded the Razorbacks 51-27.
After the game, Roberson said he knew it was his time to perform.
"I kept telling everyone all week I had zero rebounds (in the last game)," Roberson said. "I told them today would be the day I would get double-digit rebounds so I had to go out and do it."
With an exciting start to the season the Aggies biggest win of the season thus far was still to come. A&M went to Lexington, Kentucky to take on the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats.
Turner became the focal point of opposing defenses after his 40-point performance as the Aggies downed the Wildcats 83-71.
Turner gained national attention becoming the national player of the week and the Aggies stood tied atop the SEC standings with a handful of other teams.
Junior guard Fabyon Harris said he enjoyed Elston’s performance as much as the fans did.
"I just stepped back and watched the show for a little bit like everyone else did," Harris said. "I'm used to seeing Elston do that in practice and he just showed what he can do tonight."
After the Kentucky game, however, the Aggies dropped four straight games, a season-high, to SEC opponents. Kennedy attributed the streak to, among other things, an increased familiarity among SEC teams with the Aggies’ style of play.
Despite the previous losses, Harris said the team is stayed focused and united and is waiting for the good times to come.
"We just have to keep looking up," Harris said. "Things are going to get better."
The Aggies then traveled to Mississippi to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs, hoping to slow their fall in the SEC rankings.
A&M went on to grind out the win in overtime 55-49, snapping the losing streak and improving their record to 13-7 (3-4). The Aggies continue to face tough SEC competition for the rest of the season but stay motivated.
The Kentucky team that A&M beat in its last win prior to the four-game slide will make its way to Reed Arena on Saturday. Kentucky, behind a program-record 12 blocks from freshman center Nerlens Noel, toppled an Ole Miss team on Tuesday that entered the contest with a 17-2 record in its last outing.