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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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Aggies look for third-straight conference win against the Rebels
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Texas A&M forward Andersson Garcia (11) dunks the ball during Texas A&M’s game against Missouri on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

Off the back of a scrappy win over Missouri, Texas A&M men’s basketball will host the Ole Miss Rebels in the second game of its homestand on Saturday, Jan. 27, at Reed Arena.

After starting conference play 0-2, the Aggies won three of their last four games to improve to .500 in SEC play. The win over Mizzou also marked the second-straight game the Aggies had four players score in double digits.

The Maroon and White found a way to win against Missouri, but to say the shooting woes continued would be an understatement. A&M made just 28.8% of its shots — about 10% lower than its season average.

However, the Aggies won the turnover battle 15-9 and scored 21 points off turnovers to the Tigers’ 5. Seven of the forced turnovers were steals — including junior guard Wade Taylor IV’s 150th career steal. Taylor became the ninth Aggie to reach this mark, led all scorers with 19 points and tied his career-high rebounds with 6.

Winning the turnover battle has been key for A&M this year. A&M averages just under 10 turnovers a game while forcing opponents into nearly 12. The only games the Aggies have lost this year when winning the turnover battle was the loss to Memphis and the 1-point loss to Arkansas.

Senior forward Andersson Garcia has provided a spark off the bench this year, averaging a team-high 8.8 rebounds a game and 4.2 offensive rebounds per game — good enough for top-5 in the nation. The Dominican Republic native also scored 11 points against Missouri for his third-straight double-digit scoring game.

After missing the Arkansas game and only logging 11 minutes versus LSU, senior F Henry Coleman III returned to full action against Missouri. The importance of Coleman being available for A&M cannot be understated. Without senior F Julius Marble, the Aggies are down to four forwards and Coleman is the second-leading rebounder on the team with 7.4 per game. He grabbed seven boards versus Missouri and has led A&M in rebounding in 8 of 19 games this season.

On the flip side, the Rebels roll into the game having flipped the script from last season. Ole Miss finished last year 12-21 overall with a 3-15 record in SEC play.

This season, it has already surpassed its win total from last year — including an undefeated non-conference slate. A big part of its success is shooting the ball well as a team. The Rebels make 45.6% of their shots, including 38.3% of their 3-point attempts.

The Rebels are led by their experienced backcourt duo of senior guards Matthew Murrell and Allen Flanigan. Murrell averages a team-high 16.9 points per game and has drastically improved his shooting from last year. Murrell makes nearly 48% of his shots and 38.5% of his 3s. He also leads the Rebels in steals per game at 2.2.

Flanigan spent the past four years at Auburn before transferring to the Rebels. He played in 114 games for Auburn and averaged 8.5 points and 4.2 rebounds. This year, he is second on the team in scoring, averaging 16.1 points on 41.5% shooting and leads the team in rebounds with 6.8 per game.

The key for Ole Miss in this matchup is to make its open shots and force the Aggies to shoot the ball. The Maroon and White have struggled shooting the rock all season and struggled early when Missouri transitioned to a zone defense — which could be a key idea for the Rebels. However, Missouri only made 27.6% of its 3’s — many of which were open looks.

If Ole Miss can take advantage of open shooters the Aggies leave open, it could put itself in a good position to win.

The key for A&M is to continue winning the rebounding battle and to find a way to the free-throw line. The Aggies average nine more rebounds per game than the Rebels and have only lost the rebounding battle three times this season.

A&M doesn’t shoot particularly well from the free throw line at 69.9%, but it averages 17 free throws made per game. With how well Ole Miss shoots the ball compared to A&M, free throws could pick up the offensive issues for the Aggies and be the difference between winning or losing.

The matchup will be televised on the SEC Network with tipoff set for 7:30 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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