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The Battalion

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

The Battalion

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Back to black

Aggies looking to end home stand with victory over Gators in blackout game
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Open season for alligator hunting in Texas needs to come early for the Aggies.

Texas A&M men’s basketball will end its three-game home slate when it faces off with the Florida Gators at Reed Arena on Saturday, Feb. 3.

The Maroon and White have only faced off with the Gators 17 times and are 8-9 overall. However, recent history favors the Aggies as they hold a four-game win streak over Florida heading into this matchup.

A&M fell to Ole Miss 71-68 in its last time out to drop to 3-4 in the SEC. Shooting problems continued to plague the offense as the Aggies shot just under 40% while making 30% of their 3-pointers. The biggest issue in the loss to the Rebels was free throws. A&M made 22 trips to the line but made 54.5% of its attempts.

Although the Aggies won the rebounding battle 42-34, the missed opportunities at the charity stripe proved costly in the end. Junior guard Wade Taylor IV had another monster game with 30 points, but even he shot just 62.5% from the line — nearly 20% lower than his season average.

Taylor can’t continue to do it all. He’s accounted for over 25% of A&M’s total points on the year and needs help. Graduate G Tyrece Radford notched his third-straight game scoring double-figures, but he shot just 34% in that stretch.

Junior G Jace Carter has struggled to find a shooting rhythm since joining A&M. The Illinois-Chicago transfer is shooting 32% from the field and 20% from 3 — both more than 10% lower than last year’s averages. If Carter and Radford can get it going, it may be the boost the offense needs.

The Aggie offense will need to find some answers heading into this matchup as the Gators average just over 85 points per game to the Aggies’ 73.8. However, Florida’s defense does give up 8 more points a game in comparison to A&M.

Florida started SEC play 1-3, but has won its last three games and currently sits 4-3 in the conference. Florida has a matchup with No. 10 Kentucky before facing A&M, but the Gators’ explosive offense can be attributed to the fact that they have five players averaging double-digit points — four of whom are guards.

Junior G Walter Clayton Jr. averages nearly 16 points per game and has scored double-figures in all but three games. His backcourt partner, graduate G Zyon Pullin shoots 38% from 3 and has yet to score under 10 points so far this season.

Junior G Will Richard averages just under 12 a game and had 18 in the Gators’ overtime win over Georgia. Sophomore G Riley Kugel has had a rough last three games, but he averages 10.5 points a game and has a season-high of 25.

Unlike past games, A&M isn’t the clear favorite to win the rebounding battle as Florida has two players ranked top-5 in rebounding in the conference. Florida graduate forward Tyrese Samuel grabs 8.3 rebounds per game, right behind A&M senior F Andersson Garcia who grabs 8.7 a game. He also averages 13.2 points per game on 59.4% shooting.

Sophomore center Micah Handlogten is a force in the middle. He stands at 7-foot-1 and pulls in 7.9 rebounds a game. He also scores 7.4 points a game on 67.4% shooting and while he’s only shot eight 3’s this year, he’s made five of them.

The biggest key for both teams is who can win the rebounding battle. Both teams are fantastic at rebounding as A&M ranks seventh in the nation in rebounding margin while the Gators rank close behind at 10th.

A&M is the nation’s leader in offensive rebounds at 18.65 per game while Florida is ranked second at 16.25. However, the Gators are ranked 23rd in defensive rebounds at 28.4 while the Aggies are tied for 204th at 25.15.

It’s clear that Florida is a superior offensive team. If the Gators can win or keep the rebounding differential about even in this matchup, they have a good chance at running away. But if the Aggies can find a way to dominate the boards, they have a chance at hanging around.

Or, if anyone not named Taylor can produce offensively for A&M, the Maroon and White might have a chance at winning against a Florida team that is 1-2 in away SEC games.

The matchup will be televised on ESPN 2 with tipoff set for 3 p.m.

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About the Contributor
Eli Meschko
Eli Meschko, Sports Writer
Eli Meschko is a journalism senior from Boerne, Texas, and is minoring in communication and sports management. Eli has covered football, men's basketball, baseball, softball, hockey and track & field. Eli also writes for Dave Campbell's Texas Football as an intern. After graduation, Eli plans on pursuing a career in sports media or public relations.
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