A set of circumstances came together giving me a free ticket to the Texas A&M men's basketball game against Arizona. And so, my arm was twisted. (Ha. Like arm-twisting is needed when it comes to basketball or the Aggies.)
The game started out much like I expected. I had also gotten to go to a game two weeks ago against Jackson State, and the team generally looked like it hadn't yet figured out how to play together. There was confusion and a lack of energy and teamwork all over the court. We won the game, but it wasn't a pretty win. So, when you go out against a team like Arizona with all their talented players, you just have to play better.
The primary threats that I noticed were Jordan Hill, who pretty much shut us down inside and could hit most anything he posted up, and Chase Budinger, who could shoot from anywhere on the court -- inside, jumpers (including the turnaround), free throws, three-pointers from well oustide the arc, etc. And so, they got out to a quick 15-2 lead. We couldn't make a shot for anything, and they got virtually every rebound, offensive and defesive alike. It was like watching my old mid-nineties team, where you just want them to find a way to pull things together for a few minutes and not look like complete buffoons. Phrases like "moral victory" started dancing in my head. We pulled ourselves together a bit, and kept the deficit generally between 9 and 12 points through to halftime, where we trailed 40-29.
Reed Arena had a decent crowd, considering it's mid-finals weekend. I think it being a later game (8:30 start) meant a few more out-of-towners could make it. We hung in there in the second half, maintaining our deficit. At the worst, we were down by 14, but we never quit. And the second half team had more energy, more fire, and absolutely no giving up in sight. We started managing to stop them on their possessions. They started missing shots. They had a starter foul out. We were closing the gap. Down by 7. A few minutes later down by 5.
The critical point in the momentum of the game came with 6:30 left in the game, and the Aggies down by 7. Hill, the previously mentioned Arizona forward, was called for a technical foul. I didn't see what happened, since I was watching another part of the floor at the time, but Russ Pennell, the Arizona coach, didn't contest it, so I'm assuming it was legit. Josh Carter, the lone senior the Aggies have this year with any playing time to speak of, nailed his free throws and the crowd was loud and crazy and into the game. Regardless of the number of timeouts called by the two teams and for commercials for the rest of the game (4), the crowd was just right back into it each time, and how couldn't we be? We kept catching up and managed to tie the game at 62 with 3:30 remaining in the game. That was the closest we'd been since the opening tipoff. We immediately trailed again, but we could taste the possiblity. And then, with 20 seconds remaining, Nate Walkup, a sophomore, came off the bench and nailed a deep three to put us up 67-66. Elation! And then the reminder that Arizona gets the (likely) last position. Budinger, who'd been particularly hot in the first half, took the off-balance shot, we controlled the rebound, and time expired! We'd managed to get our only lead of the game when it mattered, and then we managed to keep it. Wow.
This game was part of a series of non-conference matchups between the Big 12 and the Pac 10. As far as the other games in this series, we've seen the following results:
Washington (54) at Kansas (73) -- November 24th
Colorado (62) at Stanford (76) -- November 29th
USC (72) at Oklahoma (73) -- Thursday
UCLA (64) at Texas (68) -- Thursday
Oklahoma State (65) at Washington (83) -- Thursday
Several games still remain:
Oregon State at Iowa State (today)
Baylor at Washington State (today)
Nebraska at Arizona State (Sunday)
California at Missouri (Sunday)
Kansas State at Oregon (Sunday)
Stanford at Colorado State (December 14)
There have been some close games, and in those, the home team seemed to win. I know that was the case last night, and I'm sure the result would have been different if the game had been in Tucson. I'm sort of thinking the Big 12 still has some work to do to play with these guys, but it's nice to have the games on the schedule.
Today, as the title of this post suggests, I have a bit of a scratchy throat. Of course, I'll take it.
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