3.11.11
Posted by Ryan Clark at 3:58PM

[3] Texas A&M Aggies (24-7) vs. [2] Texas Longhorns (26-6)
Sprint Center | Kansas City, MO | Tip: Approx. 8:30 P.M. CT
TV: Big 12 Network (Affiliate list) / ESPN Full Court / ESPN3.com
LRT Consecutive Game #183

Rivalry week continues for Texas this evening, as they follow up their quarterfinal win over Oklahoma with a semifinal battle against Texas A&M. The Longhorns are a perfect 5-0 against their two rivals this season, with their two victories over the Aggies coming by a combined 41 points.

As we discussed in yesterday’s game preview, there aren’t any “big picture” things on the line for Texas tonight. By beating Oklahoma, the Horns avoided a bad loss that might have dropped them to a 3-seed, while Ohio State, Kansas, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Duke have the inside track on the four 1-seeds even if Texas manages to win the conference tournament. For the Longhorns, this weekend is more about getting the team back on track, playing the kind of basketball they did while dominating the first few weeks of Big 12 play.

Ray Turner and the Aggies are a win away from the finals
(Photo credit: Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star)

The Aggies, meanwhile, still have a lot to play for. Prior to last night’s win over Missouri, The Bracket Matrix reported that Texas A&M’s averaged a 6-seed in 83 different bracket projections. With the potential to log massive résumé-boosting wins over Texas and Kansas in the conference tournament, the Aggies could earn themselves a significant seed bump this weekend.

Meet the Aggies

For a detailed look at the Texas A&M roster, please read our preview of the first game between the two teams.

The first meeting

The Longhorns never trailed when they defeated A&M in Austin by an 81-60 count. Texas attacked the Aggie frontcourt early, feeding Tristan Thompson for eight of the team’s first 12 points. Texas’ commitment to feeding the post led to early foul trouble for A&M, with Kourtney Roberson picking up three fouls in a 26-second span.

Thompson finished the night with 18 points, while Gary Johnson scored 14 of his own. Jordan Hamilton was the Horn who most enjoyed the Lone Star Showdown, though, scorching the Ags for 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting.

Defensively, Texas turned A&M into a one-man show. Khris Middleton dropped in 16 points, but no other Aggie scored more than eight. In terms of efficiency, the effort was actually one of Texas’ weaker outings. The Longhorns allowed 1.048 points per possession, a number buoyed by a flurry of late threes from A&M. Although that’s still a solid number against a good basketball team, it paled in comparison to the dominating sub-0.800 performances the Texas D was putting up early in conference play.

The second meeting

When the teams reconvened in College Station less than two weeks later, the Texas defense was much more oppressive. Once again, the Longhorns never trailed against their rivals, and dominated the first half so much that they took a 45-20 lead to the locker room. In the first twenty minutes, the Horns allowed just 0.559 points per Aggie possession. Texas was clicking so well, in fact, that their 17 first-half bench points nearly eclipsed those of the entire A&M offense.

Most impressive was the fact that the Longhorns completely shut out Middleton in the re-match. Texas played excellent team defense, sagging off the weak side and hedging to prevent Middleton jumpers off of curls. With their star player shut out, the Aggies were led by B.J. Holmes’ 19 points, many of which came at the expense of defender Jai Lucas.

Jordan Hamilton scored 47 in two games against A&M
(Photo credit: Jon Eilts/Associated Press)

Hamilton once again loved playing against the Aggies, scoring 20 points to go with eight rebounds. He constantly attacked off the dribble, going 6-of-10 from inside the arc, and he drew enough defensive attention on his baseline drives to add three assists.

The good passes and crisp ball movement was contagious, with the Longhorns dishing out 15 assists on 27 buckets. Cory Joseph and J’Covan Brown each matched Hamilton with three assists of their own, while big man Thompson even added a pair by making the extra pass inside.

Since then…

The Aggies have taken care of business since their last loss to Texas. They won six of their final eight regular season games, with the losses coming in tough back-to-back road games against Baylor and Kansas. The offense was able to get back on track, posting efficiency numbers of greater than a point per possession in five of the games.

Last night, however, A&M broke the scale. Long known as a defensive team under both Billy Gillispie and Turgeon, the Aggies simply could not miss in their quarterfinal against Missouri. Texas A&M scored an impressive 1.201 points per possession, shooting 57.8% from the field and 50% from behind the arc.

The scariest thing is that the Aggies were able to do all this with Middleton essentially relegated to a supporting role. The star sophomore only had to play 23 minutes in the blowout, and chipped in a modest nine points in the winning effort. Holmes was once again the catalyst, drilling 4-of-6 from long range to fuel his 20-point outburst. Down low, David Loubeau abused the overmatched Tiger frontcourt, scoring 20 points of his own.

Keys to the game

For the Longhorns, once again it will be important to play suffocating defense early. Just like Oklahoma, the Aggies come into this one fresh off of their best offensive game of the year. And also just like the Sooners, the Aggies were dominated by the Longhorns in the first two match-ups this season. If Texas can once again send an early message that things will be no different this time around, the Horns could squash A&M’s hopes for an upset.

Texas must also avoid foul trouble in tonight’s game. The Aggies have the 15th-best free throw rate in Division I basketball, with Middleton and Loubeau combining to draw more than 11 fouls per game. Last night was no different, with Texas A&M frustrating the Tigers and their fans by drawing 25 fouls and 34 free throws. The Longhorns are not nearly as deep as the Tigers, and the drop-off in frontcourt talent is a steep one. Having Thompson, Gary Johnson, or Hamilton in early foul trouble could spell disaster for Texas.

Finally, the Longhorns must limit the perimeter scoring. The Aggies drilled eight threes against the Tigers last night, and made six against Texas when the teams played in Austin. If the Texas offense is struggling against a solid A&M defense, a sudden frenzy of three-pointers could change the complexion of the game in an instant.

The Longhorns must close out on Holmes and Middleton, and play another sound team game on the defensive end. Good communication should eliminate the breakdowns we saw when Levi Knuston and Rodney McGruder torched Texas from long range in losses to Colorado and Kansas State.

2.01.11
Posted by Ryan Clark at 9:31AM

#3/3 Texas Longhorns 69, #16/16 Texas A&M Aggies 49

After six years of frustration in College Station, the Longhorns finally left Reed Arena with a victory. Texas led from wire to wire against the Aggies on Monday night, building a lead as large as 27 points before cruising to a dominating 69-49 win over their in-state rivals.

The Longhorns blocked nine shots on Monday night
(Photo credit: Jon Eilts/Associated Press)

The victory moved the Longhorns to 7-0 in Big 12 play, while the Aggies fell into a third-place tie with Baylor at 4-3. With Texas now holding the tiebreaker over Texas A&M by virtue of sweeping the season series, the Aggies are essentially eliminated from any discussion of a conference title.

To claim the Big 12 crown, Texas A&M would need to run the table — which includes a road trip to Kansas — while the Longhorns would have to lose four of their final nine games, and the Jayhawks would have to lose to another opponent in addition to the Aggies. Not even Lloyd Christmas would like those odds.

What looked good

The story all season has been the superhuman numbers being posted by the Longhorn defense, and against the Aggies it was no different. Texas held A&M to just 0.559 points per possession in the first half, and allowed 0.790 per possession for the game. In conference play alone, Texas is allowing just 0.835 points each time down the court, a number made even more impressive by the fact that it includes four games against the league’s three best teams.

For the third straight game, the Texas defense also completely shut down one of the top scoring threats for the opposition. Khris Middleton couldn’t even manage a point against the Texas defense, despite coming into the game averaging 15.5 a night. Against A&M, Missouri, and Oklahoma State, the Longhorns held Middleton, Marcus Denmon, and Keiton Page to a total of seven points. That trio had combined to average 45.5 points per game prior to facing the Horns.

An early catalyst for the Longhorns was the aggressive play of Dogus Balbay, who has attacked the basket much more in the last few games. Balbay seems to be more aware of when defenses aren’t prepared to stop the ball in transition, and he’s collecting a few easy layups in each game as a result. Against the Aggies, that led to six points for Dogus, who has scored 29 points in Texas’ last four games. In the nine games prior to his offensive outburst, Balbay chalked up a grand total of 28 points.

Jordan Hamilton dropped 20 points on A&M
(Photo credit: Jon Eilts/Associated Press)

Jordan Hamilton posted yet another impressive stat line, scoring 20 points with ease. He recognized mismatches and sunk midrange jumpers over Dash Harris and B.J. Holmes, grabbed six rebounds, and added three assists. While Hamilton made only three-pointers against Oklahoma State last week, he was attacking off the dribble in this one and creating good looks for himself inside the arc.

The bench also provided a huge spark in the first half, as the four Longhorn reserves scored 17 points in the first 20 minutes of the game. That alone was nearly enough to eclipse Texas A&M’s 20 first-half points. Big men Alexis Wangmene and Matt Hill finally both had a solid game on the same night, with the pair scoring nine points on 4-of-5 shooting, while they combined to grab 12 rebounds. J’Covan Brown chipped in eight points with three assists, and actually did not attempt a three the entire night.

What needed work

As always, free throws were a major issue for the Longhorns. The team shot 59.1% from the line, which at the very least was a marked improvement from the abysmal 47% mark they posted against Missouri on Saturday. Tristan Thompson was once again the main offender, making just four of his 10 attempts at the line. The rest of the Longhorns actually shot 75% from the stripe, although Hill missed the front-end of a one-and-one in the first half.

The offense in the second half left a little to be desired, but it’s hard to fault a team for letting off the gas when they take a 25-point lead to the locker room. Texas managed just 24 points in the second half, but still shot 44% from the field over that stretch. All told, the Longhorns scored 1.087 points per possession, a number any fan would be pleased with in conference play. If the biggest complaint you can make about a team is that they didn’t win by 30 points, then it seems you don’t have that much to worry about.

Unfortunately, the one Longhorn who did had a rough night was reserve guard Jai Lucas. He had a nice early drive for a layup, but also picked up three fouls (one of which was 85 feet from the basket), bricked his only three-point attempt, and was abused defensively by B.J. Holmes. It’s great that Jai was able to play 12 minutes in this one, but it’s hard to believe this performance earned himself any extra minutes in the future.

Next up: vs. Texas Tech (11-11 overall, 3-4 Big 12); 8 P.M, Saturday

1.31.11
Posted by Ryan Clark at 2:12PM

#3/3 Texas Longhorns (18-3 overall, 6-0 Big 12) at #16/16 Texas A&M Aggies (17-3, 4-2)
Reed Arena | College Station, TX | Tip: 8 P.M. CT | TV: ESPN

Tonight, the Texas Longhorns visit Reed Arena as one of the hottest teams in the country. This afternoon, they ascended to the 3rd spot in both national rankings, and have moved up to the 1- or 2-seed line in almost every bracket projection on the internet. The Longhorns are boasting their first 6-0 conference start since the school joined the Big 12 conference, and have a dominating defense that has allowed conference opponents just 0.842 points per possession.

All of that could be meaningless, however, as Reed Arena has been a house of horrors in recent years for the Texas Longhorns. A&M has won the last six meetings between the two schools, with the Aggies claiming a 74-58 victory last season. During that six-year stretch, Texas has sent two teams to the Elite Eight — those two teams lost by a combined 30 points in Reed Arena.

Tristan Thompson scored 18 against A&M in Austin
(Photo credit: Michael Thomas/Associated Press)

But if you had to pick a Texas team to break the curse, this year’s edition would be a safe bet. The Longhorns seem to thrive on hostile environments, grabbing road wins at Michigan State’s Breslin Center and in front of 21,000-plus clad in Carolina-blue at Greensboro Coliseum. And then, of course, there was the monumental comeback win against the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse that snapped Kansas’ 69-game home winning streak. These Longhorns have proven they can stand tall on the road, but a win at Reed Arena will still be a very tough task.

The first meeting

Tonight’s game is the second match-up for the Horns and Aggies, who squared off in Austin just two weeks ago. The Longhorns dominated from the start, jumping out to a 20-5 lead just seven minutes into the game. While A&M closed the gap to five points in less than five minutes, that was as close as the Aggies would ever get, and Texas cruised to an 81-60 win.

Texas A&M’s frontcourt was absolutely abused by the Longhorns in the first meeting. Texas posted a plus-eight rebounding margin, and grabbed more than 40% of their own misses. On the defensive end, the Horns held the Aggies to just a 33.3% offensive-rebounding mark, well off of their season average of 40.9%.

Texas A&M was frustrated all night, and it showed in the types of fouls they were whistled for. Ray Turner and Kourtney Roberson each were called for four fouls, forcing David Loubeau to play more minutes on a night where he was having difficulty containing Texas’ Tristan Thompson. The Canadian freshman finished with 18 points on the night, and added six rebounds in 30 minutes on the court.

Since then…

The Aggies have only played twice since that game in Austin, splitting the two contests. Texas A&M first knocked off Kansas State at home last Saturday, before dropping a game against Nebraska in Lincoln two days ago. The Aggies failed to score in the last 1:34 against Nebraska, allowing the Huskers to pull away for a 57-48 win.

Jacob Pullen is floored by Khris Middleton’s talent
(Photo credit: Steve Ueckert/Associated Press)

During the two games, Dash Harris struggled at the point. Harris combined for five turnovers and just five assists in the two wins, while his typically-abysmal shooting continued. Against KSU and Nebraska, Dash was just 4-of-13 from the field.

Khris Middleton, meanwhile, continued to lead the way for Texas A&M, chipping in 30 points in the two games. Against the Wildcats, Middleton had a tough day from the field, but manufactured points for his team by getting to the line. Although he shot just 30% from the field, the sophomore knocked down 11 of 12 attempts at the line.

Meet the Aggies

Since this is the second meeting between the two teams this year, writing another in-depth look at the A&M roster would be a monumental waste of time. We suggest that you revisit the first game preview for more info on the Aggies than you probably ever wanted to know.

Keys to the game

As it was the first time these two teams met, controlling the glass will be key. The Aggies have found success this season by winning the rebounding battle, and Texas is one of the few teams that has managed to successfully keep A&M off the glass. If the Horns can once again limit second-chance points by clearing the defensive glass and can extend their own possessions by earning offensive rebounds, they have a much better chance to complete the season sweep.

All road environments are tough to fight through, but Reed Arena is one of the loudest places the Longhorns will play. Texas showed poise in coming back in front of a hostile Allen Fieldhouse crowd, so they need to draw on that experience when things get tough tonight. The Longhorns must fight through adversity if they are going to overcome the crowd and break the losing streak in College Station. When the Aggies go on a scoring run, the Texas offense must continue to be patient, and they cannot force shots in an effort to silence the crowd.

Finally, Texas would be wise to limit the perimeter scoring. The Horns did a great job shutting down the inside game of the Aggies in Austin — Loubeau, Nathan Walkup, and Turner combined for 19 points — but gave up a lot of three-pointers in the second half. Mark Turgeon does a great job slowing things down at home, and his stout defenses always make it very tough to put the ball in the basket. This adds up to a high likelihood for a very low-scoring affair tonight. The Horns can’t afford to let Texas A&M to sink many threes when their own points will likely be hard to come by.

1.19.11
Posted by Ryan Clark at 6:39PM

#10/11 Texas A&M Aggies (16-1 overall, 3-0 Big 12) at #11/10 Texas Longhorns (14-3, 2-0)
Frank Erwin Center | Austin, TX | Tip: 8 P.M. CT | TV: ESPN2

They say there’s no sure thing in sports. But when it comes to the basketball rivalry between Texas and Texas A&M, home-court advantage has been as close to a lock as you can find. The Longhorns have won the last eight meetings played at the Frank Erwin Center, while the Aggies have claimed six straight victories at the friendly confines of Reed Arena.

For the Longhorns, defending that home-court advantage tonight is a must. As deep as the Big 12 Conference is this year, each team will likely pick up a handful of losses on the road. Winning the games at home is the best way for any Big 12 team to keep itself in contention for the four first-round byes in the conference tournament. And for a Longhorn team that heads to Lawrence on Saturday, a win tonight would also make this weekend’s showdown a battle for first place in the league.

By the numbers

As always, the Aggies are a well-disciplined team with a stingy defense that loves to slow it down into a half-court affair. Texas A&M averages just 65.4 possessions per game, a tempo that’s more than three possessions per game slower than Texas. That may not seem like a large number, but in the world of tempo-free stats, it’s a wide chasm.

Texas A&M plays a nearly impenetrable pack-in style of defense. The Aggies slide and help quickly, cutting off dribble penetration time and again. They are allowing just 0.889 points per possession, a miserly number that makes them the 24th-best defense in the country. Of course, the Longhorns are fifth-best in the country with just 0.841 points given up per possession, so we could be in for a very low-scoring affair tonight.

Khris Middleton leads an efficient Aggie attack
(Photo credit: Otto Greule, Jr./Getty Images)

On offense, the Aggies are a patient bunch who take good shots and don’t force the issue. They have the 33rd-most efficient offense in the country, putting in 1.13 points each trip down the court. The biggest contributor to the offensive success is a dominating offensive rebound percentage of 41.1, the fifth-best in the nation. When the Aggies are actually forced into a bad shot, they often get it back and make the possession count. Fans have seen the Longhorns struggle with defensive rebounding as of late, so this could be a huge problem for Texas tonight.

That rebounding prowess extends to the defensive side of the ball, as well, where the Aggies are the 11th-best team in the country. They claim nearly 75% of their opponents’ misses, limiting teams to a ton of one-and-done possessions. While the Longhorns are a fairly good rebounding bunch, the numbers the Aggies have posted so far are simply dominant. If Texas A&M owns a wide rebounding margin tonight, it could make things tough for the Horns. Keep the rebounding battle close, though, and it should be an equally-close ballgame.

Finally, it should be noted that the Aggies are masters at getting to the line. They have a free-throw rate of 48.9% so far this season. In layman’s terms, that means that Texas A&M earns a pair of free throws for every two shots that they take. The Longhorns have a thin frontcourt, and the drop-off in talent from Tristan Thompson and Gary Johnson to Matt Hill and Alexis Wangmene is a big one. The Texas bigs have to avoid picking up fouls early, or Coach Rick Barnes may have to cobble together a hodgepodge lineup.

Meet the Aggies

Texas A&M is led by sophomore star Khris Middleton. He’s a long, athletic wingman that is averaging nearly 16 points per game, and he’s going to provide a tough matchup for Texas tonight. Middleton can score from anywhere on the floor, and at 6’7″, he can easily put it up over shorter guards.

Texas’ best defender is Dogus Balbay, a 6’1″ guy who definitely can be described as a shorter guard. But if the Longhorns try to use the taller Jordan Hamilton to shut down Middleton, he can easily attack off the dribble and finish at the rim. If Texas is married to a man-to-man defense tonight, the best plan of attack is probably to use Hamilton and provide solid help defense when Middleton inevitably beats him off the dribble.

It should also be noted that Middleton has great hands on defense, and he earns a ton of points with steals and the resulting open-floor layups. Texas can’t afford to give the high-scoring Middleton even more points by being lazy with the basketball.

Dash Harris loves the drive-and-dish
(Photo credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

At the point, the Aggies rely on Dash Harris, a junior guard from L.A. who is truly a facilitator. Harris is a pretty poor jump shooter, and his 27.8% field goal mark is a testament to that fact. If you let him attack the lane, he can certainly finish at the rim, but he prefers to make defenses react when he penetrates, leaving his teammates open for good looks. Harris is averaging nearly four assists a game, so Texas should work to keep him in front of them on D and make him beat them with his weak jumper.

Joining Harris in the backcourt is, B.J. Holmes, one of the team’s two senior leaders. He’s very quick with the ball, but thanks to his 5’11” frame, prefers to do his scoring from outside. At 40% behind the arc, Holmes is the team’s best three-point shooter, and Longhorn fans are well-aware of that fact. In the the last two meetings between the Horns and Aggies at Reed Arena, Holmes was 5-of-5 from long range. Fortunately for Texas fans, he was just 1-for-8 at the Erwin Center over the same two-year stretch.

The team’s other senior leader is big man Nathan Walkup. Four years ago, he was known as a three-point marksman, but now is a hard-nosed scrapper who leads the team in rebounds. Walkup can still knock it down from long range, where he’s made 38.6% of his shots this year, but he earns most of his points by tracking down rebounds and going up strong. To trot out a few clichés, he simply has a nose for the basketball and does the little things to help his team win.

Rounding out the starting five for Coach Mark Turgeon is Miami product David Loubeau. At 6’8″, he’s a quality rebounder, but he’s much more than the prototypical forward. Loubeau can knock down jumpers with ease, and he prefers to face up his man, rather than posting up on the blocks. There have been games where the Longhorns’ Thompson has been abused by athletic forwards, so it will be interesting to see how the Texas defense handles Loubeau tonight.

Off the bench, the Aggies are getting a ton of production out of sophomore wing man Naji Hibbert. He’s averaging just 20 minutes a game, yet still puts in seven points a night and grabs a few boards. He’s another quality three-point shooter, but he can take it inside if defenses play up in his shirt on the perimeter.

Big man Kourtney Roberson is already playing well as a freshman, and with the career had at A&M by his big brother, Bernard King, we can expect even more from him in the future. He’s an incredible rebounder, grabbing more than four boards per game despite seeing the court for just 12 minutes a night. In the tempo-free world, he’s actually the best defensive rebounder on the Aggies, save for Keith Davis, who has only appeared in 13 games. Roberson probably won’t play a lot tonight, but he’ll definitely have an impact when he’s on the floor.

Another option in the frontcourt is Ray Turner, a 6’8″ sophomore who moves really well for a guy his size. He’s a natural shot blocker, having racked up 13 swats so far this year in just 15 minutes per game. That equates to a 6.3% block percentage, which would put Turner just outside the top 100 nationally if had he played enough minutes to qualify.

Fans will also see Andrew Darko for a few minutes tonight. The senior was a longtime walk-on before earning a scholarship this season, but he doesn’t make a huge dent in the stat sheet. Darko prefers to take jump shots, and is in fact so averse to attacking the paint that he has yet to take a free throw in seventeen games.

Mark Turgeon and the Aggies own a 13-game win streak
(Photo credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Keys to the game

Without a doubt, the biggest thing Texas must do tonight is control the defensive glass. The Aggies are going to get offensive rebounds, but the Longhorns can’t allow them to dominate like Connecticut did. The poor defensive rebounding performance cost Texas a win against the Huskies, and if they allow A&M to extend possessions with offensive boards, it could likely cost them another win tonight.

In addition, Texas must avoid foul trouble in the frontcourt. We’ve already touched on this, but the Aggies know how to get to the line. Middleton and Loubeau combine to draw more than 11 fouls per forty minutes, so Thompson, Hamilton, and Johnson will have to avoid being the recipients of those whistles. If Hill and Wangmene are having to play significant minutes against the Aggies, Texas will have a very hard time winning.

Finally, the Longhorns will have success if Gary Johnson knocks down the jumpers. Prior to the Oklahoma game, GJ had taken 42.5% of his shots from the “danger zone,” located from 17 feet out to the three-point line. Since it’s the longest shot in basketball that isn’t worth three points, it’s considered the least-efficient place to shoot on the court. But despite that, Johnson has found a way to make the shot profitable for the Longhorns. Prior to the Sooner contest, he was averaging 1.2 points per shot in the “danger zone,” an absolutely incredible number.

What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? When Gary is knocking down that long jumper, it forces an Aggie big to defend him further from the glass. You might make the argument that GJ is one of the Longhorns’ best rebounders, and that shot also takes him away from a rebounding opportunity. But the stats show that Gary’s biggest contribution is as a defensive rebounder, so having him pull Aggie big men away from the paint is a net gain for Texas. And when you also consider how often Johnson knocks down that long-range shot, it can easily help Texas pile up the points.

2.27.10
Posted by Ryan Clark at 9:31AM

#21/21 Texas Longhorns (22-6 overall, 8-5 Big 12) at #22/23 Texas A&M Aggies (19-8, 8-5)
Reed Arena | College Station, TX | Tip: 1 P.M. CT | TV: ESPN

The Texas-Texas A&M rivalry on the hardwood has been an easy one to predict for the last five-plus years. No matter what path each game took, or how many overtimes it took to reach the final result, the home team always prevailed. While the Longhorns have won the last eight times these two teams have played at the Frank Erwin Center, the Aggies defend their home court nearly as well. In the last five meetings at Reed Arena, A&M has been victorious each time.

A win today is even more important than just breaking a five-year road losing streak. It’s more important than holding the ever-popular “Scoreboard!” retort against your most hated in-state rival. Today’s game is a chance for the Longhorns to finally regain some momentum, a chance to win a third consecutive game for the first time since they started the year 17-0. And even more important than that, the winner of today’s game will have a leg up in what is a four-team battle for the two remaining byes in the conference tournament.

What to watch for

1) Can the Texas frontcourt keep it going? – For the first time since a game in early January against Arkansas, Dexter Pittman was incredibly productive against Oklahoma State on Wednesday night, scoring 16 points in 20 minutes to go with eight rebounds and three blocks. It wasn’t just Big Dex having a field day in the frontcourt, though. Damion James and Gary Johnson combined to shoot 8-for-13 from the field, score 26 points, and grab eleven boards.

It should be noted that the Cowboys are a very small team that was very thin in the frontcourt on Wednesday night, so the Texas big men will certainly face a much tougher task this afternoon. Bryan Davis held Pittman to just four points — all from the free-throw line — in 28 minutes of play. The addition of David Loubeau to the starting lineup gives the Aggies an even bigger presence in the frontcourt, so the battle in the paint this afternoon could be a deciding factor.

2) Will Texas attack Loubeau? – Giving Loubeau more minutes has not only made the Aggies more physical, it aids their sometimes-stagnant offense by adding a versatile big man into the mix. Loubeau can score from the midrange as well as inside, and his scoring threat will often pull opposing bigs out of the paint, opening the lane for the Aggie offense. The downside to Loubeau’s new starting gig is that his defense isn’t always that reliable against bigger, more physical Big 12 forwards and centers. If Texas can make it a point to attack the sophomore and try to draw fouls, it could negate A&M’s new, bigger lineup.

3) Can Texas dictate the tempo? – It’s no secret that the Longhorn offense bogs down in half-court sets, and it’s also not a secret that Mark Turgeon‘s Aggie defense can be downright nasty. If Texas allows this to become a half-court battle with a low score, it will certainly make it tougher to beat a well-coached A&M squad. It goes against convention to push the tempo and force the issue when playing in a tough road environment, but doing just that could give the Longhorns an offensive boost, while forcing an equally-anemic Aggie offense to score even more to secure the win.

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