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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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Taking the reins: Takeaways from A&M’s 79-66 victory over SMU

Sophomore+F+Solomon+Washington+%2813%29+shoots+a+layup+during+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+game+vs.+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) shoots a layup during Texas A&M’s game vs. A&M-Commerce on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023 at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

Just three days removed from a road victory at Ohio State, Texas A&M men’s basketball hopped on a bus to Moody Coliseum to face off against an undefeated SMU Mustangs team.
Despite early struggles, the Aggies pulled away late, leaving Dallas with a 79-66 victory. Here are a few key takeaways:
A&M basketball is not A&M basketball without Tyrece Radford
Wade Taylor IV stole the show in the offseason for the Aggies, garnering preseason Player of the Year and All-SEC first-team honors. Rightfully so, as the Lancaster native was on fire to close last season and has kept it going this year. However, without his fellow backcourt member in Tyrece Radford, A&M as a team would not be where they are right now.
Radford provides needed stability to A&M’s guards with five years of experience under his belt. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana native is just 1 point away from Taylor on the season with 51, and has stepped up in moments that Taylor has struggled, especially against the Mustangs.
At halftime of both Ohio State and SMU, Taylor had just 9 combined points, while Radford had 26. His consistency allows Taylor to have bad halves, picking up the slack wherever it may be. While he may not be the flashiest player, his toughness — reflected in his nickname, “Boots” — is a vital asset for A&M basketball’s success.
In the first half, the Mustangs hit a 3 at the 6:51 mark to stretch their lead to 4. Radford immediately answered with a 3 of his own the next possession. Like clockwork, SMU hit another 3, and went up by 4. And once again, Radford goes down and buries a 3 to keep the lead at just 1.
His ability to step up and lead when Taylor or others are struggling is a valuable asset for A&M, and is a trend that could decide the outcomes of close games in the future.
A&M has one of the best backcourts in the entire country, and most eyes immediately shift to No. 4. While he may be the most electric, there is no yin without yang, and for A&M, there is no Taylor without Radford.
A&M’s overall defense is going to win games, but it’s 3-point defense is going to lose some games
With coach Buzz Williams’ defense that puts an emphasis on trapping in the post, teams struggle getting points in the paint.
Against SMU, the Aggies had 11 steals and forced 16 turnovers, holding three Mustangs starters to under 4 points on 35.4% team shooting.
The issue with Williams’ defense is that if the ball gets kicked out to 3-point range on dribble penetration, there will almost always be someone open from deep.
This is fine if your opponent struggles from deep, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. SMU came into its matchup against A&M ranked No. 302 in the country in 3-point percentage at 25.76%. Despite this, the Mustangs went 10/23, 43.5%, from beyond the arch. This includes a 5-7 performance from senior SMU guard Chuck Harris.
The Aggies will have to face some of the nation’s best scorers later on this season, such as graduate Tennessee G Dalton Knecht, fifth-year Memphis G Jahvon Quinerly and graduate Alabama G Aaron Estrada. If the Maroon and White begin to get into 3-point shootouts, things could get ugly for the Aggies, especially considering A&M is shooting just 28% from deep this season.
The Aggies’ team identity is more or less the same from last season
With 88.4% of production returning from last season, A&M seems to have not skipped a beat from last year. Although senior forward Julius Marble is still out with an undisclosed university process, the Maroon and White have enforced their identity early this season.
A&M’s big three of junior G Wade Taylor IV, senior G Tyrece Radford and senior F Henry Coleman III has accounted for 75.2% of all of the Aggies’ points this season, with Taylor holding the 1-point advantage of Radford this season at 52.
In every game this season, the Maroon and White have shot over 20 free throws, a category they led the country in last season. This team has an established identity, which early on in the season could pay dividends with other experienced teams like Memphis and — potentially — FAU on the horizon.
The ability to win close games is crucial, the inability to pull away is troublesome
Against Ohio State, neither team ever held a double-digit lead. The Aggies also trailed a large portion of the first half, only pulling ahead late to take a lead into halftime. Even still, A&M was able to claw ahead and leave Columbus, Ohio with a road victory.
The sign of a good team is one that can go blow-for-blow with another team for 40 minutes and come away with victory, something A&M has struggled to do to start the last two seasons.
With the Mustangs, the Maroon and White pulled ahead early and despite giving up the lead a few times in the first half, took a 7-point lead at the half thanks to a Radford buzzer-beater.
Once the Aggies took their first double-digit lead thanks to a jumper from senior G Hayden Hefner at the 17:34 mark, it felt like the Maroon and White were a few buckets away from running away with the game.
But A&M just couldn’t do it.
The biggest lead of the night for the Aggies was only 12, and despite A&M controlling the pace of the game, they couldn’t pull away from the Mustangs.
Knowing how to face adversity head on is important, especially when playing in a conference with the likes of Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. But knowing how to deliver the killing blow is just as important, and if A&M continues to constantly be in down-to-the-wire matchups, fatigue could begin to set in quickly.
It’s early, but the Aggies need to learn how to put their opponents to rest early.

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