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The Battalion

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

The Battalion

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No. 25 A&M conquer its third-straight ranked opponent; extend home and overall win streak

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Photo by Ishika Samant

Sophomore G Manny Obaseki (35) during the Aggie War Hymn after a game vs. Tennessee at Reed Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023.

With an attendance of 12,989, Reed Arena came up a little over 1,000 people short of breaking the attendance record of 14,036 that was set last season on Jan. 19, 2022, against Kentucky.
According to the frequency counter in his head, Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said this was the loudest game he has ever coached in the maroon and white — and black — arena.
“I don’t think it’s close,” Williams said about the magnitude of the environment compared to other games. “I think the closest one would be Arkansas last Wednesday and the next closest one would’ve been Auburn. We are so appreciative [of the 12th Man].”
On Feb. 21, Texas A&M basketball hosted No. 11 Tennessee for a rematch of the SEC title game that took place on March 13, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.
To some athletes on the orange and white roster, this game still marinated in their thoughts, sophomore guard Wade Taylor IV said.
“One of the dudes on the bench said, ‘Thank you for the ring last year in the tournament,’” Taylor said. “That stuck with me the whole game… Just to come out in front of our amazing fans, shout out to the 12th Man, and get the win for them and our team is huge.”
Statistically, Tennessee is the most intense defensive team in the nation. The Volunteers rank first in the nation in holding their opponents to a 35.8% field goal percentage, first in holding their opponents to a 24.9% 3-point percentage and third in total points allowed per game at 56.7 points.
Non-numerically, the Volunteers are not as dominant when it comes to creating turnovers, but nevertheless force opponents to take difficult shots and crash the boards, as they rank second in the SEC in rebounds per game at 26.1.
“We knew that going into the game,” Junior forward Marble said about Tennessee’s interior defense. “We talked about it the last couple of days…We have to make sure we are just as physical as them because if we are not we will lose that game.”
This became evident to the Aggies when the game started on a slow note. They allowed a 7-0 run in the first three minutes of the game and forced four straight contested shots. This obligated Williams to use his first of four timeouts in the half.
“Tennessee is unbelievable and probably the most physical team we have played,” Taylor said. “They have the No. 1 defense for sure. It was very hard to get off a shot.”
With an and-1 layup from Marble, A&M finally found itself on the scoreboard with 16 minutes left in the first half. Shortly after, the Feb. 20 SEC Player of the Week followed Marble with his first and only 3-pointer of the night.
The two Dallas natives rotated the majority of the first half as the only maroon and white scorers with 20 points combined up until the three-minute mark. Then, junior forward Andersson Garcia hit his first 3-pointer of the season, on only five attempts, to cut the deficit to three.
Senior guards Andre Gordon and Tyrece Radford would soon link up with their teammates and add on an additional five points, one 3-pointer and a layup, to gain the Aggies’ first lead of the night before freshman forward Tobe Awake scored a layup at the buzzer to tie the game at 31 to end the half.
In accordance with the theme of the season, A&M came onto the court in the second half with the goal of getting to the free-throw line. A team that is first in the nation in free throws made per game at 18.9 and second in the nation in free throw attempts per game at 25.1 did not fail to meet this goal.
Just six minutes into the second half, the Aggies found themselves in the bonus, which guaranteed a one-way ticket to the charity stripe for the rest of the game when fouled.
Unfortunately, A&M emerged on the other side of the whistle and had four players with three fouls — all starters — and rewarded Tennessee with the bonus with 10 minutes left to go.
With a comfortable 7-point lead, the Volunteers refused to give up and would go on a 7-2 run to cut the deficit to three, managing to keep the game within one possession until the last 30 seconds.
With the ball in their hands, the Aggies just needed to pass the ball inbounds and secure it before the Volunteers would foul and gift them with two free throws.
Misfortune struck, and the victory would not come as easily as many thought.
Radford lost the inbound pass and allowed Tennessee to regain possession of the ball. No longer than a moment later, Taylor stole the ball back and got fouled. He then looked at his teammate and nodded as if to say, ‘I got your back.’
“I was just being my brother’s keeper,” Taylor said. “I went over to help, No. 25 tried to pass and I just deflated it and caught it. I feel like we played pretty good defense the whole game.”
Taylor would sink the free throws, bring it to a two-possession game and get one final stop to solidify the Aggies’ third straight win against a ranked opponent and their eighth straight win in Reed Arena.
“It starts in practice,” Marble said. “The coaching staff prepares us for situations like this where you have to get a stop, or a turkey, in the last minute or two and we won the game. That’s what we echo throughout the team and we practice that all the time.”
Taylor finished the night with 16 free throws and 25 points total. Marble followed behind with 9 free throws and 21 points total. The two reached a career-high in both free throws made and attempted.
“I’m trying to get a couple free throws a game and get the average up,” Taylor said about his free throw performance. “I just felt like attacking the basket. They were giving us a lot of angles. With [Marble], he had a tremendous game and the lane was wide open. Just going in there and trying to get fouled or throwing him the ball and getting him fouled.”
As a team, A&M surpassed the average shooting percentage Tennessee has allowed from the field and behind the arc by 3.3% and 1.8%, respectively.
A&M has two road games against Mississippi State and Ole Miss before its final home game of the season on Saturday, March 4, against No. 2 Alabama, at 11 a.m. in Reed Arena.

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