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

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

The Battalion

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Men’s basketball prepares for Auburn looking for one last bit of magic

Photo by Photo by: Morgan Engel

On Saturday, the Aggies will travel to Gainesville to face No. 17 Florida.

At this point last season, the Aggies were coming off their fourth straight loss.

They responded, however, with an eight-game winning streak before losing in overtime to Kentucky at the SEC Championship game. Four seniors and a serviceable bench made it possible for an 18-7 team to become a three-seed overnight.

Texas A&M (13-12, 5-8 SEC) has similarly dug itself into a hole by recently dropping consecutive road games. With five games remaining, the Aggies would need a miracle to make the NCAA Tournament. The same could be said for an NIT berth.

In hopes of replicating last year’s instant turnaround, Billy Kennedy’s squad will start by hosting Auburn at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The Aggies lack a senior-laden group this time, as 13 of their 16 roster players are underclassmen. To make matters worse, small forward D.J. Hogg was ruled out for the season with a nagging foot injury. The sophomore led A&M in scoring for quite some time.

Hogg missed the following two games after injuring his foot in the Georgia game on Jan. 21. The small forward then saw action in the next four games, but he only broke double-digits once in that span.

Although Hogg saw limited action, he added double-digit, meaningful minutes off the bench. His absence in Thursday’s game at Vanderbilt not only left a hole in the Aggie offense, but it diminished that revived bench production.

In the last seven games since Hogg’s injury, sophomore guard Admon Gilder has played every minute. Against Vanderbilt, four players saw at least 33 minutes. Only eight men saw playing time — Chase Carlton and Tavario Miller combined for just nine minutes.

The game itself was a seesaw affair, but the Aggies became noticeably tired as the game grew old. Players like Tonny Trocha-Morelos weren’t used to seeing so much playing time.

Robert Williams, Tyler Davis and Admon Gilder all average double-digits in points. Double-doubles come often for the Aggie big men, especially as of late. Instead of the A&M starters, its primary concern has become a lack of depth.

The Tigers (16-10, 5-8 SEC) are similarly young and inexperienced. Auburn’s top four leading scorers are freshmen. Centralized guard play is where the Tigers differ, as Mustapha Heron leads the bunch with 15 points per game.

Auburn jumped out to 10-2 before conference play, highlighted by impressive wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Connecticut. Auburn also knocked off March-hopeful TCU 88-80 a couple weeks ago in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

This past week has been a different story for the Tigers. Auburn heads into Reed Arena on a two-game losing streak as well, falling at Ole Miss and at home against Florida.

 With its nonconference wins and overall record, Auburn has a better shot at making the big dance. But like last year showed everyone, anything is possible. The Hogg-less Aggies will need more than just their starters to make something happen, however.

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