Here are three keys to victory as Texas A&M basketball looks to take down No. 19 LSU Tigers at Reed Arena on Wednesday night.
You could make a case the Texas A&M basketball season could not have started any worse, realistically speaking. Sure, they could have started 2-16, but there were some cupcakes on the schedule even a team struggling as the Aggies are would never lose to. If we’re being fair, A&M have won a game here and there that were impressive wins.
However, those decent wins are evened out by some horrific losses. Texas A&M should absolutely never lose to UC Irvine or Texas Southern at home, no matter how good those two teams are in a given year. Less unforgivable as a loss, but completely unforgivable in the way it went down was the embarrassing effort against Missouri, also at home.
Before the win over Kansas State, A&M had lost four consecutive games at Reed Arena, and it was showing. Attendance was brutal against K-State.
Despite all of that, they did get the shocking upset win over the Wildcats, who are in first place in the Big 12 right now. This came after a decent showing at Florida in the previous game.
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The Aggies now welcome LSU, winners of nine straight, into Reed. Do they have what it takes to bring down the No. 19 team in the country? These three things will have to happen for that answer to be yes.
Much like A&M has tried to be this season, LSU’s success comes on the offensive end with their guards. It hasn’t worked quite as well for the Ags, but if there is any advantage they have in this game offensively it will come from crashing the offensive boards and creating second chance opportunities.
Christian Mekowulu and Josh Nebo will have to match up with Naz Reid inside and find ways to score easy buckets. Mekowulu had gotten nearly as many offensive rebounds as defensive this season, which is remarkable, and Nebo has been a force on both ends of the floor in conference play.
This doesn’t just fall on the Aggie big men, either. Savion Flagg has been great on the glass this season and leads A&M with 8.1 rebounds per game. He had a double-double in the win over Kansas State.
Turn defense into offense
LSU can score. They are No. 15 in AdjO on the Pomeroy advanced college basketball ratings and have guys who can light it up on any given night. But one thing they don’t do very well (much like A&M) is take care of the ball. They are averaging 14.1 turnovers per game.
The Aggies forced Kansas State into a few turnovers that led to easy buckets. They will have to do this against LSU with the half court offense leaving much to be desired. Hopefully Wendell Mitchell and Jay Jay Chandler can disrupt the passing lanes a few times each.
Take care of the ball
Texas A&M have been equally guilty of not taking care of the ball. They average 14.2 turnovers per game, with TJ Starks being the worst offender in this regard at 3.8 per game. They somehow overcame 20 turnovers against Kansas State, although most of that was in a sloppy first half.
Making matters worse, LSU is No. 4 in the country in steals. They will hound ball handlers and do an excellent job of reading passes. Aggies will remember Tremont Waters going off for eight steals in the game at LSU last season.
Starks has to share the ball handling responsibilities and the entire team needs to do a better job of moving without the ball and hitting open shots to create space.
Speaking of hitting shots…
Honorable mention: MAKE SHOTS. This one is fairly obvious. A&M lives and dies with their three-point shooting unless the defense is playing lights out, but this is a key for Texas A&M in every game the rest of the way.