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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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Up and down

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The transformation of an Aggie team that had the appearance of an NCAA Tournament long shot before the season might be as simple as the transformation of Nathan Walkup.
The senior forward’s third straight head-turning performance lifted an A&M team fighting poor play, a poor crowd and poor defense for stretches of Wednesday’s game to its third straight win, 71-66 against Iowa State. Against a Cyclones team shooting 50 percent from 3-point range, Walkup and sidekicks followed the No. 17 Aggies’ year-long motto to the letter — put simply, as Head Coach Mark Turgeon did, finding a way to win.
“If you would have told me before the season that this team would have been [where it’s at], I never would have believed it,” Turgeon said. “This team, even though it’s not pretty, figures out a way to win games. It’s been a remarkable run to this point. It’s not easy this time of year to get wins.”
Guarding a seven-point advantage at halftime, A&M (20-5, 7-4 Big 12) re-entered the court and built the lead to 10 after four minutes. An 11-0 Iowa State run fueled by three 3-pointers and a pair of free-throws snatched it away with 13:51 to play, but a close-range turnaround by freshman forward Kourtney Roberson wrestled it right back and the Aggies would allow only one tie the rest of the game.
The Cyclones’ (14-12, 1-10) looks from behind the 3-point arc and ability to make them became a recurring theme — the team made 11 of its 22 — as Walkup’s play has. The senior routinely beat Iowa State’s frontcourt to the basket down low for easy baskets, made his customary hustle plays and powered both halves, finishing with 19 points and five rebounds.
Early in the first half, Walkup, standing near the arc, drove left towards the baseline and went up for a dunk that energized the Aggies, if not the crowd, early on. His 3-pointer with 9:30 left in the game broke the final tie. The two teams traded blows, remaining close for the remainder of the game.
A&M has endured a rugged stretch of close games after losing in overtime to Baylor, winning in overtime at Colorado and close games at Texas Tech and home against Iowa State.
“This was a good win for us,” Walkup said. “Everybody kind of felt relieved that we survived their threes and found a way to win.”
A mere 7,041 fans waded into Reed Arena on Military Appreciation Night, wherein the ceremonies continued undeterred. Still, the team’s sluggish performance — reminiscent of tight and underpopulated games against lacking competition such as Stephen F. Austin — left some questioning the squad’s ability to focus in the face of similar disappointment. Walkup dismissed the notion; Turgeon refused to entertain it.
Sophomore forward Khris Middleton fortified the win with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Junior point guard Dash Harris, a target of criticism offensively, made four of six shots and finished with 11 points; classmate David Loubeau threw in 11 as well.
Walkup’s Aggies reached the 20-win plateau for the seventh straight season and rests close to a sixth straight NCAA Tournament berth with five regular-season games left to play.
“You always want to fill the shoes of the people before you,” Walkup said. “It feels good to keep carrying it on. You don’t want to be the streak-buster or the one that ends something like that.”

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