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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Shocked and shucked

Aggies dominate Cornhuskers to advance to Round of 32
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Junior G Manny Obaseki (35) flexes after scoring during Texas A&M’s game against Nebraska in the 2024 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee, on Friday, March 22, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)

For the Aggies, the only blues in Memphis, Tennessee following their First Round game in the NCAA Tournament was the music.

On Friday, March 22, Texas A&M men’s basketball secured its first NCAA Tournament win since 2018, doing so in dominating fashion, as the Aggies throttled 8-seed Nebraska Cornhuskers 98-83.

Early in the first half, amidst a sea of red as Nebraska fans filled FedExForum, the Aggies found themselves in a 7-point deficit after junior guard Brice Williams drilled a 3, sending the building into an eruption.

The noise was silent from then on, as the game became all Aggies. A&M went on to outscore Nebraska by 21 for the rest of the half, as junior G Wade Taylor IV went perfect from deep, going 5-5 to help give the Maroon and White a 14-point halftime advantage.

In the second half, the Aggies continued their offensive onslaught. The most the Cornhuskers cut A&M’s lead to was 12, but by 9:21, A&M had grabbed a 20-point lead, all but sealing Nebraska’s fate as the Maroon and White coasted to victory.

A&M is playing its best basketball of the season

Almost a month ago, the Aggies were Knoxville, Tennessee, receiving a beatdown from the Volunteers, getting pummeled 86-51.

By halftime of its game against Nebraska, A&M had 58.

Since March 2, the Maroon and White — whose offense had been lethargic all season — have been on a tear, averaging 85.1 point per game.

“We were 6-4 with a huge win over Tennessee, and then we lost five games in a row,” coach Buzz Williams said. “ … I think the lessons we learned watching what transpired was maybe a catapult to what has happened this month.”

Junior G Manny Obaseki, who had played limited minutes prior to his insertion into the starting lineup against Georgia, is now averaging 16.7 points per game and has been the catalyst for A&M’s offensive resurgence.

“I think it’s great to see Manny flourish,” Taylor said. “We see each other work out every day. We work out every morning, and we know how much each other put in.”

Nebraska came into the matchup one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the country, coming in at No. 21 nationally in 3-pointers made per game, yet the Aggies outshot the Cornhusker from behind the arc, 13-7. They also shot it at a higher clip, making 56.5 %.

Senior forward Andersson Garcia, A&M’s biggest glue guy, has been the reason the Maroon and White have even stayed in multiple games this season, as the Moca, Dominican Republic native is second in offensive rebounds nationally. Yet Garcia only played 10 minutes, only tallying two rebounds. In arguably his worst game this season, the Aggies were still able to win by double digits.

This A&M team is not the one who lost five in a row in February. Graduate G Tyrece Radford, Taylor and Obaseki are playing arguably the best they have together in their career, and with three weapons in the backcourt, the Aggies’ offense is the most potent it has been all year. It showed tonight, as they scored the most points in a tournament game in A&M’s history.

Faith can’t just talk; It’s got to walk too. I think this group is walking out the faith in one another. That’s uncommon. They’re uncommon people with uncommon character. And they’ve walked out the faith in one another despite all that’s transpired over the last five weeks.”

— Buzz Williams

Wade Taylor IV is made for the big moment

Since stepping on campus, Taylor has been the guy for the Aggies.

The preseason SEC Player of the Year has lived up to the moment plenty of times this season, averaging 31.4 points in games against Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida Atlantic and Houston. In his second March Madness game, the Dallas native lived up to his reputation.

Taylor was unconscious from deep, doing 7-10, finishing with 21 points, dishing out 5 assists as well.

“It’s been fun playing alongside Wade,” Obaseki said. “I’ve played against him since fourth, fifth grade. Just seeing his game and seeing him succeed at a high level makes me happy.”

Taylor often had to will the Aggies into close games earlier in the season, and his offensive proficiency made him an easy target for a double team. However, with the emergence of other guards, it’s hard to keep full focus on Taylor, and that is what has made him so dangerous late in the season.

If he can continue to shoot at the caliber he is, Taylor will be a hard guard.

A&M’s (most likely) next opponent is a familiar name, and the Aggies can get payback

The Aggies were two missed free throws away from a major upset over Houston on Dec. 12. Now, A&M has its chance for revenge on the biggest stage in the country.

The Maroon and White will play the winner of Houston/Longwood, and if history tells anything, it will almost certainly be a rematch against the Big-12 winning Houston Cougars.

Radford did not play in the last matchup, as he was sidelined with an injury, so the Baton Rouge, Louisiana native will have his first shot at Houston on Sunday,

The Cougars, in their first year in the Big 12, took the regular-season title and made it all the way to the Big 12 Tournament Championship game before falling to Iowa State, 69-41. One thing that is always consistent with Houston: defense.

The Cougars are the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, only allowing 57 points per game. The Aggies’ offense has evolved recently, but they will face their biggest challenge of their careers in two days.

 

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About the Contributor
Hunter Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor
Hunter Mitchell is a sport management senior minoring in journalism. Hunter has covered football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, softball, hockey, cross country, track and field, along with swim and dive. Hunter's favorite sport is college basketball, and he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association. Hunter also hosts weekly episodes of the Home Turf sports podcast.
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