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March 14, 2014

Aggies show heart, but come up short

There really wasn't a lot to complain Thursday in terms of Texas A&M's season ending loss to Missouri. The Aggies played hard for the most part although they did seem to miss out on some loose balls every once in a while. For all of the talk about A&M's lack of a point guard, the Aggies actually got a lot of production out of the position today with Alex Caruso and Faybion Harris combining for 38 points, 10 assists, and 13 free throw attempts. Caruso was his heady self, playing the passing lanes and forcing three steals on defense and not picking up inbounds passes until they rolled far downcourt to buy time in a game that went to overtime. He hit five of nine from three point range and typically took good shots with his feet set rather than forcing up bad.

Harris got dribble penetration into the lane enough that he got to the line a few times and set other people up for good shots.

In addition (and particularly in the second half), A&M didn't rotate the ball around the perimeter so much and just stay 20 feet from the basketball. Their ball movement today was much better and they were patient enough to work it inside the three point line and get decent shots. Jamal Jones was four of ten from downtown off of Caruso's and Harris' feeds.

You have to give A&M a lot of credit for finding ways to hang around through three overtimes and make plays down the stretch. In particular, the Blake McDonald steal and Caruso basket to force the second overtime reminded you of the Larry Bird steal and Dennis Johnson layup in the 1987 Eastern Conference finals. Both times, an offensive player toward the wing threw ball back not just toward the middle but toward their own basket which is a big no no. Not only did McDonald read the pass and knock it backwards, Caruso was smart enough to follow him up so that he could take the ball and lay it in.

A&M's biggest problem was that Missouri was better inside and better at getting dribble penetration to get off higher percentage shots. They outrebounded A&M 48 to 28 overall (continuation of a season long trend) and by seven on the offensive glass, getting putback after putback. They also went to the line 53 times and hit 40 free throws. By the third overtime the Aggies had no one inside to play with the Tigers as three big men (Robertson, Space, and Johns) fouled out.

Overall, it was microcosm of the Aggies' season….they just weren't good enough when it mattered. They did provide an indication of how good they can be when they work the ball more inside and are less perimeter oriented. Jones can be a workhorse offensively and when Caruso can pass the ball to someone else and move without it both he and the Aggies are much better off as a team. Nonetheless, A&M needs rebounding help inside and needs to learn how to work the ball inside so that they can hit a higher percentage and go to the line more. That and a point guard would have made the difference in the close games that the Aggies had this season. However, more talent isn't as much of an answer at this point as is more patience offensively with a goal toward working the ball inside more.


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