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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

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Weathering the storm

Photo by Kyle Heise

Sophomore F Solomon Washington (13) drives to the basket during Texas A&M’s game against Iowa State at the ESPN Events Invitational in Kissimmee, Florida on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023.

Despite what the ESPN presentation showed on the TV, the final day of the ESPN Events Invitational was not a beautiful, sunny close to the tournament. It was gray, it was wet and it was ugly.
The weather was quite reflective of Texas A&M men’s basketball’s start in its third-place game against Iowa State.
At the 2:44 mark in the first half, the Aggies went down 21 points, and with senior starters in guard Tyrece Radford and forward Henry Coleman III out with injury, things seemed bleak for A&M.
That is until the Aggies carried an 11-0 run into the second, scoring the first 5 points to cut the Cyclones’ lead to single digits. Finally, at the 12:30 mark, A&M grabbed its first lead with an and-1 finish from senior F Andersson Garcia and didn’t look back, keeping the lead for the rest of the contest.
The Aggies’ depth is what will set them apart
With Radford and Coleman out, the expectation was that junior G Wade Taylor IV needed to have another breakout performance like he did against FAU.
However, in a full-team effort, seven different Aggies accounted for at least 6 points, with sophomore F Solomon Washington going for his career high of 18 points. Taylor had 12 of his 14 points in the second half and graduate F Wildens Leveque played 22 minutes, his season high.
No one completely stood out, but that’s the beauty in it. Even with stars missing and starters struggling, the Aggies found a way to pull out a come-from-behind win.
Don’t get it twisted, the Maroon and White need their two starters back. They are crucial cogs for A&M, but the rest of the team completes the machine. The Aggies had eight players with over 10 minutes and did not miss a beat after getting popped in the mouth early.
“All of them had different paths to here, but I’ve said it in the first two weeks that the synergy and charisma and competitive chemistry that they are playing with is rare,” coach Buzz Williams said. “I’m not saying we’re the best team, and I’m not saying I’m the best coach but I think there’s a comradery there in between the lines and off the court that’s very rare in my career.”
A&M is going to get tested a lot this season, and with Virginia slated for Wednesday, there is not much reprieve in sight, but knowing that anyone could step up in any game could be a major factor in how the Aggies can show they’re different from the rest.
Last season, A&M would have left this tournament 1-2
In 2022, the Aggies took a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina ranked No. 24 to play in a non-conference tournament that many Aggie fans believed they should have won.
They came back to College Station with two losses to Murray State and Colorado, in which the Aggies got hit early and could not recover.
Now this season, the Maroon and White traveled to Orlando in a field consisting of five other schools who made the NCAA tournament last season, including a Final-Four FAU team.
In every contest in the invitational, A&M trailed, and in the last two games, they trailed by over 15. Still, the Aggies are going home with a third-place finish with their only loss to a top-20 team.
Against the Owls, the Aggies gave up 16 3s and were down two starters but still only lost by 7. For context, FAU won the invitational championship over Virginia Tech by 34.
“If there was a checklist, there were more things on the wrong side of the checklist than the right side,” Williams said. “ Florida Atlantic is good enough to win a national championship, and we did some good things, but I thought that tonight, despite all that transpired, I thought we were able to go back to our identity and what we want to be about.”
The experience the Maroon and White have from their SEC schedule, conference tournament run and NCAA tournament game is beginning to pay off. Schools that consistently compete at a high caliber have the experience to back it up, like Purdue and Marquette this season.
The Aggies got hit and fell down last season, but at least early this year, it seems A&M’s ability to stick around even after falling behind will be a major factor in the Maroon and White’s success.
The ghosts of 3-points’ past almost came back to haunt A&M
The 16 3s FAU made in the semifinal were the Owls’ killing blow, and against Iowa State, the Aggies almost let it happen again.
In the first half, A&M gave up seven shots from behind the arch on 46.7% shooting, and was a large reason the Maroon and White found themselves in such a deep hole. Luckily for the Aggies, the Cyclones went frigid in the second half, going 2-19 from deep.
“I don’t really have a great answer for [missing shots in second half],” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “… We were really confident making those shots in the first half. We’ve got to stay the course and continue it in the second half.”
This allowed A&M to fight its way in front, but not many teams are going to shoot almost 50% in one half and then shoot 10.5% in the next.
A&M needs Coleman and Marble back to allow the guards to sink off more towards the perimeter, or this trend will continue.

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