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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

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Beware the three-headed dragon

Aggie guard trio combines for 72 points in SEC Tournament win over Kentucky
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Photo by CJ Smith
Sophomore F Solomon Washington (13) and junior G Wade Taylor (4) celebrate during Texas A&M’s game against Mississippi State on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, at Reed Arena. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)

It may have taken all year to develop, but Texas A&M men’s basketball has found its offensive firepower — and they proved it in front of the nation and Big Blue Nation with a 97-87 win over Kentucky in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee.

Junior guard Wade Taylor IV put up 32 points. Graduate G Tyrece “Boots” Radford added 23. That’s a great performance, but largely expected from the Aggies’ two leading scorers.

It’s junior G Manny Obaseki’s 17 points that are the reason A&M has turned a corner offensively. The Aggies are on a five-game winning streak — Obaseki has hit double figures in the Aggies’ last six games.

The Trinity Found

It was immediately obvious the trio were going to be the Aggies’ scoring strengths against the Wildcats. Fitting for the Ides of March, the trio shot like assassins from beyond the arc to begin the game. Four of A&M’s first five made baskets were 3-pointers, and the Aggies entered the halftime break shooting 50% from deep — better than their 43% from the field.

The sharpshooters didn’t let up as A&M — who ranked 350th out of 351 teams in Division I in 3-point percentage after Thursday’s action — outshot the Wildcats from 3, both making 11 while Kentucky attempted one more shot from long range. Eight of those 11 were courtesy of the trinity of Obaseki, Radford and Taylor.

All of this came as Kentucky entered the game leading the nation in 3-point percentage. But the Aggies’ game plan wasn’t to play the Wildcats’ game.

“When we control the pace, it plays to our favor,” coach Buzz Williams said to ESPN. “When it gets going too fast, we’re not good on either side of the ball, and that’s when they are at their best. We need the game to be choppy. It’s not a beauty pageant. If it’s a beauty pageant or a track meet we lose.”

Holding a Kentucky team that had averaged 99.4 points per game to just 87 is keeping the game from becoming a shootout, even if the score doesn’t show it at first glance.

The war for the glass

The Aggies’ perimeter scoring was the flashiest — and most unexpected — part of the victory, but A&M won this game the same way it has won most of its games this season: Rebounding, especially offensively.

A&M entered the night leading the country in offensive rebounds per game,eager for a good showing on the glass.

It sure got it. A&M outrebounded Kentucky 38-34, including 13-9 on the offensive glass. That led to the Aggies’ 26-9 advantage in second-chance points, which, combined with Kentucky’s 14 turnovers, allowed the Maroon and White to capitalize against a Wildcats’ scoring defense ranked 329th in the nation.

A bid secured?

For the third-straight season, the Aggies are on to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. But is that enough to secure a ticket to the Big Dance?

With fellow bubble teams St. John’s, Pittsburgh and Ohio State all falling to higher seeds in their respective conference tournaments, the Aggies’ future is beginning to take shape, as Joe Lunardi now has the Maroon and White in the last four byes in his latest bracketology.

But A&M woke up to find itself with five Quad 3 losses after Memphis slipped out of the top 75 in the NET rankings. That’s an ugly blemish on the Maroon & White’s otherwise solid resume — and it’s enough to make sure A&M isn’t an NCAA Tournament lock just yet.

The easiest way to avoid a stressful Selection Sunday is simple: Take care of business on the court, and win the whole tournament.

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