Missouri 57 | Texas A&M 63
1st Half Notes
- Mizzou throws up a wild shot on its first possession, Bates essentially flails at the rim.
- But, he follows that up with a bucket.
- Butler loses a shoe while going for a loose ball. Tigers are certainly matching the intensity of the Aggies thus far.
- They’ve also managed to hang in there on the boards. Worth monitoring as the game goes on, as TAMU relies upon its offensive rebounding to score.
- Bates has done such a great job of getting to the spot he wants to shoot at and not letting a defense dictate the caliber of shot that he gets. This hot streak from him is incredibly impressive.
- 14:58 (Mizzou 8-4): Butler picks up a second foul.
- Bates with a 3-pointer to extend the lead to nine. Tigers are winning on both ends of the floor right now. It’s the same fire they’ve played with for weeks, now they just have to keep it up for 40 minutes.
- Hayden Hefner’s recent struggles continue with that travel. He hit a couple of surprise 3-pointers against the Tigers in Reed Arena last year.
- Tigers have gone with almost exclusively zone in this one. Not often seen from Gates, but it’s disrupted TAMU’s individual talents.
- TAMU has settled into this one, largely thanks to Taylor and Coleman elevating their level of play.
- 8:50 (TAMU 14-13): It’s a 10-0 run from the Aggies.
- Both sides making untimely mistakes to keep the other in it. Six turnovers for Mizzou, four for TAMU.
- Basket has a lid on it for the Tigers. They’ve missed their past four shot attempts, and a lot of them have been in the paint.
- Bates called for a charge, which has been rare in college basketball due to recent rule changes. He and Butler each have a pair of fouls, while Carter is on the bench with three.
- 5:16 (TAMU 22-15): A Wade Taylor IV 3-pointer swings momentum firmly in TAMU’s favor following a rough stretch. Gates takes a timeout.
- Honor with a must-have shot from behind the arc at the shot clock buzzer. Much-needed is an understatement...but it was a millisecond late. Heartbreaking.
- And, of course, Hefner hits a 3-pointer on the other end.
- Bates was standing nearly wide-open under the rim but nobody caught sight of him. A shot clock violation is the result.
- It’s now a 23-2 run in favor of A&M. Cold stretches, yet again. I feel like a broken record.
- That stat about second-highest free throw percentage but last in attempts in the SEC is tragic.
- And as I write that, Carter gets to the line and knocks down a pair. A personal 6-0 run from the man who was benched tonight gets Mizzou back into it.
- 1:08 (27-23): A rare Curt Lewis 3-pointer cuts the deficit to just four.
2nd Half Notes
- Butler gets things started off with a 3-pointer, and Bates tacks on four more points to keep Mizzou within striking distance.
- That’s four fouls for Tamar Bates with a bit over 16 minutes remaining.
- East with one of his rare 3-pointers, keeping up his streak of not taking a lot of ‘em but making ‘em when he does.
- Three 3-pointers from Mizzou eclipses the two it made in the first half.
- 12:42 (Mizzou 39-38): A lob to Connor Vanover gives the Tigers their first lead since the 10:40 mark of the first half.
- Anthony Robinson misses another transition lay-in, something that has happened fairly often for him this semester.
- A Radford 3-pointer to make it a six-point game feels like a pivotal moment.
- Nevermind, Nick Honor has our back. He knocks one down right back after East threw him one of his classic one-handed cross-court passes.
- Honor knocks down another 3-pointer. Have to respect that he’s kept on shooting despite his recent struggles.
- 3:42 (TAMU 54-51): Sean East is a flamethrower (on very specific occasions).
- Texas A&M looks like it’ll ice this game from the line. Tigers committed 25 fouls and TAMU shot 35 free throws as a result.
- Starters for the night: Honor, East, Bates, Butler, Carralero Martin.
5 Fan Questions:
- Who will lead the team in scoring?
- How many blocks will the Tigers record?
- How many 3-pointers will Nick Honor hit?
- What will the halftime score be?
- Who will be the surprise star of the day?
Lastly, drop your game predictions and MVPs down below.
To Texas we go.
Following a rocky start to SEC play, the Tigers now have a chance to pick up a Quad 1 victory against a seasoned, tough Texas A&M team.
The Aggies are led by a trio of seniors who returned for one last ride in College Station following a disappointing first round exit at the hands of No. 10 Penn State in ‘23. This team is well-balanced and well-coached, and Mizzou figured out how hard it is to win at Reed Arena in an 82-64 loss last January.
This could be a season-defining victory for the Tigers if they can pull it off. Let’s take a look at how that could happen.
Time: 8:00 p.m. CST
Date: January 23, 2024
Location: Reed Arena, College Station, Tx.
TV: SEC Network
PG: Nick Honor (Grad, 10.7 PPG)
SG: Sean East II (Grad, 15.9 PPG)
SF: Tamar Bates (JR, 12.7 PPG)
PF: Noah Carter (Grad, 12.4 PPG_
C: Connor Vanover (Grad, 4.1 PPG)
Notable Sixth Man: Jesus Carralero-Martin (SR, 2.6 PPG)
PG: Wade Taylor IV (JR, 19.5 PPG)
SG: Tyrce Radford (SR, 13.0 PPG)
SF: Jace Carter (JR, 6.4 PPG)
PF: Solomon Washington (SOPH, 5.5 PPG)
C: Henry Coleman II (SR, 11.9 PPG)
Notable Sixth Man: Andersson Garcia (SR, 5.5 PPG)
*These are projected starters. Also, in today’s college basketball, positions rarely mean much. Those are included purely for perspective on what matchups on the court may look like.
Get To Know Texas A&M
The Coach: Buzz Williams is one of the more engaging, energetic, (editor’s note: best dressed) and personable coaches in the country. The two-time SEC Coach of the Year took over in College Station in April 2019, and he’s transformed the TAMU basketball program into a consistently successful squad that is always one of the tougher teams in the SEC on both ends of the floor.
Williams began his head coaching career at New Orleans during the 2006-07 season but took over at Marquette right after. From 2008-14, Williams went to five NCAA Tournaments, racked up a 139-69 record and won the Big East regular season title in ‘14 with the Golden Eagles.
He was then hired to rebuild the Virginia Tech basketball program, which had not qualified for the Big Dance since 2007. Williams went 100-69 over five seasons and led the Hokies to three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, which is the first and only time that has ever occurred in VT history.
The Season Thus Far: The Aggies picked up a quality road win over Ohio State in the second game of the season, and they followed that up with a 2-1 showing at the ESPN Events Invitational (wins over Penn State and Iowa State, loss to FAU).
The rest of the non-conference slate for the Aggies was even more challenging. In Charlottesville, TAMU fell into the Virginia defensive trap and lost to the ‘Hoos by a score of 59-47. Williams’ group then cruised to a win over DePaul but fell in tight contests against Memphis and Houston. The start to SEC play was up and down for TAMU, with the Aggies picking up key win over Kentucky and LSU but also falling to the aforementioned Bayou Bengals, Auburn and Arkansas.
The Key Stats: I mentioned that this is one of the more well-balanced teams in the nation, and the stats back it up. TAMU ranks 24th in adjusted offensive efficiency, reel in an absurd 44.1% of its misses and only commits ten turnovers per game. The Aggies also rank 63rd in defensive efficiency and have held 13 opponents to under 70 points. Their dominance on the glass is evident by their 43.8 rebounds per game as a team.
Texas A&M is also 5-7 against Quads 1 and 2, while the Aggies are 6-1 against Quads 3 and 4.
The Stars: Texas A&M is led by a quartet of upperclassmen contributors, and they each have had unique career paths.
Wade Taylor IV started in 14 games as a true freshman in 2021-22 while he got his feet under him at the collegiate level. Then, he blossomed into a mainstay in the starting lineup the next season, averaging 16.3 PPG and 3.9 APG. He’s seen an uptick in both of those numbers this season, and he has become the manager of this offense and an overall team leader who is truly battle-tested in this conference.
Henry Coleman III is the second of those upperclassmen. The 6-foot-8, 240 lb. bruiser began his career as a four-star recruit in Durham. He was never able to crack the main rotation with Duke, and thus he moved on to College Station. Similar to Taylor, Coleman took a major leap forward in his sophomore season, averaging 11.0 PPG and reeling in a 6.2 RPG. His numbers took a slight dip last year, but Coleman is now pouring in 11.9 PPG and grabbing a whopping 8.0 RPG as an athletic, high-energy big. He missed the Arkansas game due to an ongoing ankle injury, and he returned to play 11 minutes in the team’s last outing against LSU.
To complete the trio, we have Tyrece Radford. He spent his freshman campaign under Williams at Virginia Tech and stayed in Blacksburg for one more season before joining his former coach in College Station. The 6-foot-3 guard is a do-it-all player with a high motor and some incredible athleticism, and he’s averaging 13.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.3 APG. Radford did have to battle some injury issues early in the season—which contributed to some of TAMU’s losses—but he is now healthy.
And, I would be remiss if I did not mention Hayden Hefner. The 6-foot-6 sharpshooter is averaging 8.3 PPG but has struggled as of late, shooting 32.5% from behind the arc on the season. He also hit three 3-pointers in the Aggies home win over Mizzou last season.
3 Keys To The Game
- Match TAMU’s physicality
In the 2023 meeting between these two teams at Reed Arena, there were two main issues that Mizzou had.
The first was cold shooting, as the Tigers shot 35.6% from the floor and 22.6% from behind the arc.
But, the second issue also persisted in the teams’ follow-up game in February: Missouri was not able to match the physicality and toughness of the Aggies. It was visually noticeable, and it showed up in the box score with a combined 83-48 advantage on the boards for TAMU in those two games.
“It’s really all about playing harder and finishing defensive possessions,” Bates said following the Florida loss.
Mizzou has to show that it is willing to win some of the tough rebounds and 50/50 balls that will likely define this game.
2. Take Wade Taylor IV out of a rhythm
The veteran guard dictates nearly everything that Texas A&M does. If he’s in a groove, then this Aggie offense will work like a well-oiled machine. If not, then Mizzou has a chance.
Affecting him is easier said than done. He’s seen it all at the collegiate level, and he plays at his own pace. Nick Honor will likely be charged with being the primary defender on him, although I’m also intrigued to see how Sean East II and Anthony Robinson II hold up. Regardless, whoever is covering him will need to force someone else to manufacture offense for this team. Kentucky found out just what Mr. Taylor could do when he dropped 31 on them earlier this month...
3. Find a way to push the ball in transition
This Missouri team has been at its best when it is pushing the ball in transition and dictating the pace of the game. Going into a hostile environment against an elite team, why not try to get aggressive and dictate the tempo?
I’d be perfectly fine to see this team push the ball up the floor after every made or missed Aggie shot, consequences be dammed. Turning this game into a track meet could take TAMU right out of its comfort zone.
KenPom Prediction: Texas A&M 77 | Missouri 67
My Prediction: Texas A&M 78 | Missouri 72
This may be the toughest road game of Mizzou’s conference campaign, and yes I am counting Rupp Arena in that statement.
The Aggies have shown that they can go toe-to-toe with some of the nation’s best, evidenced by the win over the ‘Cats and the 4-point loss to Houston, and Reed Arena has become a raucous place to play. Dennis Gates and Co. need to flip the script from last season and punch TAMU in the mouth just as much as the Aggies will right back, and that will require some gritty rebounding and tough shot-making.
To bounce back from the recent struggles and pick up a signature upset win, these Tigers will have to play their best ball of the season.
“We’re a well-connected group, so we’re never going to just fall,” Carter said following the Kentucky loss. “We know we’re right there and are so close.”
In the end, I just don’t know if Mizzou has what it takes to hang with this Aggie team for a full 40 minutes. I see the home team pulling away late.