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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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Tournament time

Junior+DJ+Hogg%2C+who+is+third+on+the+team+in+scoring%2C+averages+11.4+points+per+game.
Photo by Photo by Cassie Stricker

Junior DJ Hogg, who is third on the team in scoring, averages 11.4 points per game.

After finishing the regular season with a 68-66 victory over Alabama on Saturday, the Texas A&M men’s basketball team (20-11, 9-9 SEC) will play Alabama (17-14, 8-10 SEC) again on Thursday in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
Saturday’s match-up wasn’t pretty by any means, as both teams combined to shoot 38 percent from the field and commit 25 turnovers. The game also included some tension with the two teams combining to commit 45 fouls. The tipping point of the tension came when A&M freshman guard TJ Starks pushed Alabama guard Collin Sexton in the head after the two exchanged words. Starks was ejected for the hit to Sexton’s face and Sexton was issued a technical foul for taunting.
A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said he hopes Starks will be able to handle any on-court distractions better this time around.
“We can’t say enough to him, we told him last week that was possible and when you look back on it, both of them were at it the whole game,” Kennedy said. “I think the officials will get on top of it early in the game.”
Though Kennedy has emphasized the importance of not paying attention to Sexton’s antics, A&M will need to keep a keen eye on him every time he is around the ball, as the guard can score at will. Sexton, who is averaging 18.3 points per game, netted 16 and 23 points in his two games against A&M.
“Collin’s got a big mouth but he’s a really good player. It’s just his love for the game, that’s his energy, that’s just how he is,” A&M center Tyler Davis said.
Alabama beat A&M in Tuscaloosa 79-57 in the first match-up this season. However, the Aggies were without Admon Gilder due to injury and D.J. Hogg, who was suspended. Following Saturday’s game, Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said the duo of Gilder and Hogg made all the difference in the rematch. Hogg and Gilder scored 14 and 11 points, respectively.
Getting Hogg in a rhythm early will be a point of emphasis for the Aggies, as they are 13-1 on the season when Hogg makes two or more three-pointers.
Gilder, who is still recovering from a lingering knee injury, looks to be back to almost full strength. However, Kennedy said he is a bit concerned at the potential of Gilder playing four consecutive days in the SEC Tournament. The junior guard played 36 minutes on Saturday.
“I don’t worry about his toughness, but that’s something that we haven’t had to do. We’ve always had a day off after a game, so it’ll be new territory for him,” Kennedy said.
Tyler Davis, who earned First Team All-SEC honors on Tuesday, has found immense success against the Crimson Tide in their first two meetings, notching 14 points in the first match-up and 20 points in the second, while shooting 70 percent from the field (16-of-23).
The Aggies are listed as a No. 7 seed in ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology. ESPN Bubble Watch also has the Aggies listed as a “lock” to make the NCAA Tournament. Kennedy said he hopes the consensus that the maroon and white will have a spot in the tournament will give his team the confidence needed to loosen up and play more freely. At the same time, Kennedy said he doesn’t want his team to take the predictions for granted.
“Winning definitely helps,” Kennedy said. “I don’t understand all that seeding still, we just need to try to win the games that we have control of and see what happens.”
Conversely, Alabama is listed as one of the “Last Four In” by Bubble Watch and will likely need a win over A&M to make it to the tournament. Kennedy said the Tide’s desperation will make the game physical from the first play.
“I thought they played with a different level of intensity last game, playing with a different level of urgency and hopefully we’ll come out with a sense of urgency that we played with on Senior Day,” Kennedy said.
The winner of Thursday’s game will play No. 16 Auburn on Friday at noon. The Tigers have a 23-6 regular season record, making them a daunting opponent; however, both A&M and Alabama have beaten them.
If the Aggies win the SEC Championship, they will have won four consecutive noon games. Davis said the early afternoon tipoff allows him to enter the game with a different mindset.
“I like early games so I think it will be fun,” Davis said. “I don’t like waiting all day to play.”
A&M and Alabama will play on Thursday in St. Louis, with tip off slated for noon CST. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

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  • Sophomore Robert Williams and junior Admon Gilder embrace after sealing a three-game win streak with a victory over Alabama in their final game of the season.

    Photo by Photo by Jesse Everett

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