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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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Build it, and they will come: A&M handles A&M-Commerce to open season

Sophomore+F+Solomon+Washington+%2813%29+dunks+the+ball+during+the+first+half+of+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+game+against+A%26amp%3BM-Commerce+on+Monday%2C+Nov.+6%2C+2023+at+Reed+Arena.+%28Ishika+Samant%2FThe+Battalion%29
Photo by Ishika Samant

Sophomore F Solomon Washington (13) dunks the ball during the first half of Texas A&M’s game against A&M-Commerce on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023 at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

In 2021, Texas A&M men’s basketball drew 5,129 to Reed Arena for its season opener against North Florida. In 2022, they brought in 6,262.
For 2023, the Aggies brought in 8,802, the second-highest opening attendance in school history.
After an offseason of recognition and accolades, the Maroon and White garnered the attention of not just the national media, but the student body as well. The No. 15 Aggies, despite a few valiant efforts from their opponent, the A&M-Commerce Lions, lived up to their ranking, running away with a 78-46 victory.
For the Lions coming into this matchup, the narratives lied not on the court, but off of it. On Friday, Oct. 13, A&M-Commerce coach Jaret Von Rosenberg’s wife, Sarah, was rushed to the ER after suffering a stroke caused by a severe blood clot. After a successful surgery, her health took a turn for the worse early Sunday morning after more blood clots were discovered.
Von Rosenberg said she is now in recovery, the only reason he was able to travel to College Station for the Lions’ season opener. There is currently a GoFundMe for the Von Rosenberg family.
“The basketball community, Buzz [Williams], has been incredible,” Von Rosenberg said. “We’re in a tough business, but it’s pretty cool to see how people help. I appreciate people sharing our story. Hopefully we can pay it forward.”
Despite A&M’s proficiency getting to the line last season, finishing No. 2 in the country, the Aggies only shot 64.7% from the charity stripe. The Maroon and White instead poured it on from 3, shooting 39.3% for 33 points from beyond the arch. The Aggies also dominated the glass, out rebounding the Lions 47-25.
“On the offensive glass last year, I think we finished fourth in the country,” Williams said. “It skews our offensive numbers in a positive way. I think tonight we offensive rebounded 47% of our misses, that’s a great number … We’ve tried to be more proactive on how we teach [defensive rebounding], how we coach it and how we emphasize it.”
While junior guard Wade Taylor IV lived up to the preseason hype with 16 points and 6 assists, senior G Hayden Hefner stole the show for A&M, breaking his career high with a 19-point performance in just his sixth start of his career.
“We had media day, and one of the questions was, ‘Who should the fans look out for?’ and my answer is [Hefner],” Taylor said. “I see [Hefner] working every day in the gym consistently, so I knew when the time was right he was going to show everybody what he has in his bag.”
The Nederland native got the 3-point shooting started for the Aggies early in the first half, and sank 3 shots from deep, shooting for 50% on the game.
“I feel like there’s a lot more that’s going to be asked of me,” Hefner said. “Which I’m going to be capable of stepping up to the plate for that. So, I know what’s going to be asked of me. I know what to expect, day in, day out.”
A&M-Commerce did not back down after going down double digits, however, going on a 13-1 run in the middle of the first half to cut the Aggies’ lead to just 1. Hefner answered the Lions’ run with his second 3 of the night to stop the bleeding for A&M and spurred a 16-4 run of its own.
The Maroon and White took a 15-point lead into the half, with five Aggies with at least 7 points on 11 assists.
In the second half, the 3-point barrage helped A&M pull away, as Taylor and graduate G Eli Lawrence went a combined 4-5 from deep, with the team going 6-14 from behind the arch.
On the glass, seven Aggies had at least four boards, with senior forward Henry Coleman and sophomore F Solomon Washington with eight and seven, respectively.
Washington provided a spark for the A&M off the bench, nearly reaching a double-double and draining only his fifth-career 3 in the second half.
This victory marked the first appearances for junior G Jace Carter, graduate F Wildens Leveque, freshman G Bryce Lindsay and Lawrence. The newcomers accounted for 23 points, with Lawrence’s 11 leading the charge.
“I think we’re going to need each of those new guys to have a distinct role,” Williams said. “And we kind of have an idea, it’s just probably still a little too early to say.”
Lawrence transferred in from Middle Tennessee State this offseason, where he was a second-team All-Conference USA selection in his senior season, leading the Blue Raiders in points per game with 12.2.
For A&M-Commerce, its early-season schedule is daunting, but Von Rosenberg said that despite the obvious challenges ahead, he hopes they’re experiences that his team can learn from.
“You get in an environment like this, and we expect [Texas] Tech, it’s going to be their opener, so we expect that to be crazy,” Von Rosenberg said. “Then we play a team called Kentucky on Friday … Hopefully, we’ll be able to draw some stuff from that later in the game. Great opportunity for some of our players to do some things really well and have success on both sides of the ball.”
The Aggies will hit the road on Friday, Nov. 10 to face off against the Ohio State Buckeyes at The Schottenstein Center at 6 p.m. The game can be watched on Peacock.

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