Big 12 Conference action gets underway in Waco tonight, as the Texas A&M Aggies pay a visit to the undefeated Baylor Bears.
Texas A&M was among the nationally-ranked earlier this season, but back-to- back losses to Florida (84-64) and Rice (65-58) in December cost them that lofty status. The team managed to rebound in its last outing though, taking out an overmatched Arkansas Tech squad in a 76-58 final on Thursday. The Aggies are playing their first true road game of the season tonight.
Baylor is 13-0 for the first time in program history, and its 13-game winning streak matches the longest in school history originally set way back in 1946. One of only four Division I teams unbeaten at this point, the Bears have taken out solid teams in San Diego State, Northwestern, BYU, Saint Mary's-CA, West Virginia and most recently, Mississippi State. BU is 8-0 at home this season, and a win tonight would give it its fifth consecutive victory in Big 12 openers.
The "Battle of the Brazos" as this rivalry is known, favors Texas A&M by a 127-76 margin. However, Baylor has won the last three meetings, which includes its first-ever season sweep of the Aggies last year.
Texas A&M has built its solid record this season by playing some pretty stingy defense, as foes are typically allowed just 55.8 ppg while hitting their field goals 35.7 percent of the time, and their three-point tries at only 27.0 percent. The Aggies routinely win the rebounding battle (+8.2), but they are guilty of more than 14 turnovers per outing while the opposition commits fewer than 10. At present, the team boasts four double-digit scorers, led by Khris Middleton and his 13.6 ppg. Elston Turner is a three-point sniper (23-of-56, .411) who nets 12.8 ppg, while Ray Turner (12.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and David Loubeau (11.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg) have both been productive players for coach Billy Kennedy's club as well. Elston Turned nailed four treys on his way to a game- high 19 points, and Ray Turner logged a double-double with 15 points and 15 boards in leading the Aggies to their recent rout of Arkansas Tech. Middleton added 13 points, and Dash Harris chipped in with 10 for A&M, which won the game despite committing 21 turnovers by shooting 50.9 percent from the field and claiming a 47-28 advantage on the glass.
Baylor has had very little trouble doing much pretty much what it wants at both ends of the court this season, as the team is putting up 77.6 ppg in hitting just shy of 50 percent of its total shots (.490), better than 41 percent of its three-point tries, and 72.1 percent of its free throws. Defensively, the Bears are yielding just 58.8 ppg with foes shooting a mere 36.8 percent from the floor, and they own favorable margins in both rebounding (+6.5) and turnovers (+1.5) as well. There are five double-digit scorers on the roster, but with the top guy (Perry Jones III) averaging 13.4 ppg and the final player (Brady Heslip) checking in at 10.8 ppg, coach Scott Drew prefers his team put forth a balanced effort rather than rely on one or two guys to handle the bulk of the offensive load. Baylor tangled with Mississippi State in Dallas last week, and while both teams struggled at the offensive end, the Bears had enough in the tank to earn the 54-52 victory. Pierre Jackson came off the bench to lead all scorers in the game with 14 points, while BU starters Quincy Miller and Heslip pitched in with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Both teams went just 5-of-17 from three-point range, but the Bears outscored the Bulldogs at the charity stripe, 11-3, which proved to be the difference in the game.