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The Battalion

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

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Texas A&M starting pitcher/relief pitcher Emiley Kennedy (11) hands the ball to starting pitcher/relief pitcher Brooke Vestal (19) during Texas A&M’s game against Texas at the Austin Super Regional at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
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The Battalion May 4, 2024

Survive and advance

Aggies beat Rebels to head to SEC Tournament quarterfinals
Photo by CJ Smith
Junior G Wade Taylor (4) reacts during Texas A&M’s game against Mississippi State on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, at Reed Arena. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

Right jab. Lead uppercut. Left hook.

Texas A&M men’s basketball’s game in the SEC Tournament against Ole Miss, the team it beat by 26 in the season finale, was more akin to a boxing match than a basketball game. Each team for 40 minutes went blow-for-blow, trading baskets, diving for loose balls and crashing the glass.

Even after the Aggies went up 13 with just 4:52 left in the second half following a 3 from graduate guard Tyrece Radford, the Rebels did not hold back. Ole Miss clawed back, using full-court pressure to go on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 3 at 2:16.

Despite the run, the Maroon and White settled down and — after an extended period of intentionally fouling and free throws to close the game — pulled away en route to an 80-71 win.

The Aggies are in … for now

After the Aggies dropped five in a row, losing at home to South Carolina to fall to 15-13, A&M seemed dead in the water in terms of making the NCAA Tournament.

Since then, the Maroon and White are on a four-game winning streak, grabbing quality wins over Mississippi State and now, Ole Miss twice. At halftime of A&M’s game, Joe Lunardi had the Aggies in the field before the Maroon and White had even finished off the Rebels.

Now, A&M is the second-to-last team in, jumping just ahead of Indiana State. The Aggies and their fans, as they did two years ago, will be watching the rest of the college basketball world closely all the way up to Selection Sunday.

The Atlantic-10 had its two top seeds fall in their conference tournament, opening up a bubble spot if No. 3 seed Dayton wins. Other teams, like Virginia and Colorado, play later tonight in their respective tournaments with major implications for the Aggies.

Of course, A&M can put all if’s, and’s and but’s away by doing one thing: beating Kentucky tomorrow.

This game was played exactly how A&M wanted it to be: ugly

Thirty years ago, the way the Aggies play would be seen as the blueprint for how basketball should be played. Aggressiveness, crashing the boards and diving all over the floor have long since fallen out of favor for most basketball teams, but A&M seemingly didn’t get the message. And the way the Maroon and White have played over the last five games, they may not want to.

A&M outrebounded Ole Miss 48-32, forced 12 turnovers, had 36 paint points and made 27 free throws. The Aggies are No. 335 in pace of play, No. 347 in total offense, yet they are No. 1 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, securing 42% of their misses.

The Maroon and White made just five 3s, but still won by 9.

Five Aggies were in double digits, something that has been a game changer for the Maroon and White as of late, especially with the emergence of junior G Manny Obaseki the last few weeks.

If you want pretty basketball, do not turn on an A&M basketball game. It’s discombobulated, chaotic and physical, but that’s the way the Aggies need it. When the Maroon and White are forced to play another team’s game, that is when they look like the team that fell to LSU, Arkansas and Vanderbilt.

If the Aggies can manage to hold on and make it to the Big Dance, their style of play could blindside any team unprepared for a 40-minute dogfight — but they need to make it first.

The Aggies may have beat Kentucky once, but it’s a completely different team this time

One of A&M’s best wins this year, an overtime victory over Kentucky, is one of the reasons the Maroon and White have put their foot into the postseason pool. But this won’t be a rinse-and-repeat game for A&M. In fact, it can’t be if they want to win.

Kentucky is the No. 2 scoring offense in the country with the SEC Sixth Man of the Year in freshman G Rob Dillingham and Freshman of the Year in G Reed Sheppard. Add First-Team All-SEC senior G Antonio Reeves, despite A&M’s emerging backcourt, that is a lot of firepower to handle.

The Wildcats have won six of their last seven, including wins over Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi State and Tennessee to finish No. 2 in the conference.

It goes without saying, but this is A&M’s biggest game this season. A win, and it has more or less sealed a berth in the March Madness, and they will have to do it by making Kentucky play its game. The Aggies, after a hard-fought win, cannot let their foot off the gas. 

The Maroon and White will have to play another full 40 minutes of basketball, but the ball’s in their court.

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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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