We lost to the Aggies 76-63 on the road. It was close for most of the game, but the ninth ranked team in the country was too much in the end.
I thought we did a good job of going into a hostile environment and keeping our cool early against a very good team. This game was very close for most of the first half. For the first time all season, we could not dominate in the low post. Texas A&M had great size and depth at the center and power forward positions, and that ended up being the difference in the game. Hendrix had another very solid game, but he did not dominate the paint like he was able to in all of our previous games. He looked fatigued toward the end of the game. There was one stretch in the first half where we seemed content to settle for outside shots early in the shot clock. Hendrix made one, but then missed a couple of 18 footers. Anytime we are relying on Hendrix to shoot from 15+ out, we are probably going to have some problems. To Coach Gottfried's credit, we called a timeout and made some adjustments after falling down 6 due to poor shot selection.
The end of the first half was very disappointing. We had the ball, down 6, with a chance to go into the half within 5. Instead we turn the ball over and give up an open perimeter shot, to go in down 9. That was a key turn of events in the outcome of the game.
Jemison did not have his best game, but we need him on the floor. When he went out with 4 fouls early in the second half, Texas A&M opened their lead up to double digits. Yamene played hard and got some key rebounds and second chance points, but he isn't really a weapon in the half-court offense due to his inability to consistently catch and shoot the ball.
Overall, I thought we played pretty good defense. We were aggressive in the man to man, forcing a few turnovers, and we were active in the zone. It was nice to see us integrate a little 3/4 court press in the first half as well.
I was pleased with the way the freshman played in a tough environment. Justin Knox came in and gave us quality minutes. Rico Pickett came back his suspension and played with great poise. Senario Hillman made some incredible plays, but at times tried to do a little too much. You can tell he is going to be a tremendous asset for us in the years to come.
The loss of Ron Steele continues to hurt us. We are going to have to figure out who our main PG is going to be. Hollinger started tonight, and played decent despite a couple of turnovers. Torrance did not get the playing time, and Pickett played very well but made a few typical freshman mistakes. This is one area where our substitution patterns needs to become more consistent.
Defensively, I think we did about as well as could be expected in this game. They are very big, strong, and deep inside, and we had a difficult time blocking them out in the second half. Riley continues to be susceptible to the head fake, but the effort is there from him on defense. Gee plays hard, but gets out of position at times, and good teams like Texas A&M will make you pay for that. Most of their outside shots were the result of our defenders helping out when someone got beat off the dribble. We did a much better job of fighting through and switching on screens, and closing out on the ball than we have in previous games.
Alonzo Gee has got to get under control. He makes a great play one second and a horrible mistake the next. A perfect example, he made a great play on defense by stepping into the passing lane and picking off an aggie pass to spark a 3 on 2 fast break. Then, with a man wide open for a possible alley-oop, or an open 8 foot jump shot, he got indecisive and travelled with the basketball. At this point in his career, we can't have those kinds of mistakes and expect to beat top 10 teams on the road.
Hendrix has got to do something about his free throw shooting. One out of 2 is all we can hope for at this point. There were a couple of incidents when we missed the front end of a one and one when we had a chance to cut into the lead. Hopefully our free throw shooting will improve as it has in years past.
Overall, we played a pretty good game. Texas A&M is a top 10 team, and we are not. A lot of people thought we would be embarrassed tonight, but I think we can all be proud of the way these kids played hard and represented the University. The Ags made the shots and plays they needed every time we started to make a run, they were more physical on the boards and deep in the post, and they capitalized on our mistakes. Congratulations to a very good Texas A&M team on the victory.
Up next, a 5-1 Southeastern Louisiana team comes to Coleman. We seem to always play these teams with bad names but respectable teams, which is good for our RPI as long as we win them. Hopefully Coach Gottfried will have the guys focused, as this is the dreaded "sandwich game" between two games featuring top 10 opponents (#5 Georgetown is looming next Wednesday). If we get the same effort we got tonight, we should not have any problems.
This game should give us the confidence we need to know that if we play sound fundamental basketball, improve in a few areas, and eliminate some mistakes, we can play with anybody in the country.