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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Aggies open basketball season with blowout win

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Photo by Robert O’Brien

Senior G Tyrece Radford (23) walks out as the starting lineup is announced before the start of Texas A&M’s game against ULM at Reed Arena on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022.

The crowd at Reed Arena chanted to “saw Varsity’s horns off,” but Texas was nowhere to be seen. Rather, the Texas A&M Aggies were taking on their neighbors to the east, welcoming Louisiana-Monroe for a season-opening bout as the maroon and white hosted the maroon and yellow.
The Aggies opened their season up with a 1-0 record, taking down the ULM Warhawks by a score of 87-54 on Monday, Nov. 7, showing a mastery of both ball movement and 3-pointers. A&M showed proficiency in both metrics, accruing 21 assists and 12 made 3s as a team.
“The energy in [Reed Arena] is there,” sophomore guard Wade Taylor IV said. “We just have a different mentality this year: just take it one game at a time. Not leaning into anybody’s hands … and controlling what we can control.”
A new-look Aggie squad saw two newcomers in the starting lineup: freshman forward Solomon Washington and graduate guard, Wichita State transfer Dexter Dennis. The new guys paid their dues early too, as Washington opened up the game with a tip-off win that was caught by junior forward Henry Coleman III and promptly taken to the glass for a dunk.
Dennis was next, getting a layup for a 4-2 A&M lead. The scoring continued to pour in when Taylor scored four of the Aggies’ next six points to go up 10-4 before the first media timeout of the night. The Aggies made a full substitution and had a chance to show off some more of the new talent in College Station.
Before any more new faces got on the scoreboard, though, junior guard Hayden Hefner hit a pair of triples that got the crowd roaring. After a defensive lull from the second unit shortened the Aggies’ lead to just 16-12, junior forward Julius Marble slammed down a transition dunk on ULM’s sophomore forward Thomas Howell that rocked Reed’s crowd and backboard alike.
Marble, a Michigan State transfer, was among a trio of transfers off of the Aggies’ bench. Marble returned to his home state of Texas alongside junior guard and Arkansas transfer KK Robinson and junior forward and Mississippi State transfer Andersson Garcia.
“We recruited bigs,” Taylor said. “I was very impressed [with them.] With Julius [Marble] being from Dallas, I recruited him myself and told him, ‘You’ve got to come here, we need you, so don’t even look at any other schools.’ And Dexter [Dennis,] we call him ‘Unc,’ because he’s like one of the oldest on the team, and he just keeps everybody in order.”
The Aggies closed out the opening half showing aggression both inside and outside of the arc. Marble and Coleman were aggressive down low, both in rebounding and scoring, and Dennis, Taylor, Robinson and senior guard Andre Gordon helped A&M go 7-for-12 from behind the line in the first half.
“It’s [a result of] the way we are connecting together,” Hefner said, citing the chemistry as the reason the Aggies found so many open shots. “I know if Julius [Marble] gets the ball in the low post on the opposite side, that is he even slightly sees me on the other wing, he’s going to throw it.”
The difference early in the match between the Aggies and the Warhawks appeared to be passing and shooting. A&M had 11 assists and seven 3s to ULM’s four and one, respectively. Both teams struggled with avoiding fouls. Both teams combined for 24 fouls, and after both teams entered the bonus, the match felt like a glorified free-throw contest.
Despite shooting 8-for-27 from the field, ULM entered the second half trailing just 45-31 thanks to 18 first-half free throw attempts. The Aggies needed to fix a somewhat-sloppy start to further take control of the game.
“I thought we played really well in many respects,” coach Buzz Williams said. “But the thing that I was disappointed in at halftime was we fouled 13 times in the first half for 14 points. Six of those came fouling a 3-point shooter in the act of shooting. That’s sin.”
The Aggies came out of the gate sluggish, sinking just three of its first nine shots, but Taylor broke the slump with his second triple of the half. A&M’s defense, though, was lockdown. The Warhawks did not make a field goal for the first six minutes of the second half. Taylor stayed hot, hitting another 3-pointer. Sophomore guard Manny Obaseki took his turn, hitting a layup, 3-pointer and a free throw to score six consecutive points.
With a 67-39 lead with 10 minutes to go, A&M started finding its success attacking the paint. Hefner and Garcia each hit a layup, Dennis switched up the flow with a 3-point shot and then Coleman, Obaseki and sophomore forward Javonte Brown went on a combined 8-0 run for an 82-44 lead with 4:56 remaining.
The nail in the coffin came when Obaseki had a transition dunk, on which he was given a technical for hanging on to the rim. From there, the Aggies coasted to their final score of 87-54. The game ended how it started, with the maroon and white “sawing ‘em off” again.
Williams said that he wants to treat every game as if they’re playing themselves, looking to improve every time they touch the court.
“I don’t ever want to take for granted how hard it is to win a game,” Williams said, listing off various upsets that happened that day.
The Aggies stay home for an in-state matchup, not just against themselves, but against Abilene Christian on Friday, Nov. 11. This will be A&M’s final home game before traveling to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

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