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Monday, February 27, 2006

Aggies making move

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— Don't look now, but Texas A&M;'s men's basketball team is slowly but surely gaining on the competition in the league.

The Aggies (18-7, 8-6) stretched their winning streak to five Saturday with a 66-55 victory over Nebraska.

Billy Gillispie's second A&M; squad has moved into a tie with Colorado (18-7, 8-6) for fourth place in the league and has its sights set on the school's first NCAA Tournament bid since 1987.

No less an authority than normally cautious Gillispie has begun talking openly about their chance at a breakthrough bid.

"Our team is definitely worthy of playing in there (NCAA Tournament). I'm not saying that to try to politic for it," Gillispie said. "If they let us in, we'll play really good in there. We're definitely good enough to be in there, but we'll see if we can get to the point where they let us in."

On Saturday, a Reed Arena crowd of 10,946 watched the Aggies move ahead of the Cornhuskers (17-10, 7-7) in the conference.

A&M;, which plays host to first-place Texas on Wednesday, held Nebraska without a field goal for the first 10 minutes. The Cornhuskers missed their first nine shots and finished the first half shooting 4-of-23. Yet A&M; led just 27-21 at half.

"It's not the most comforting thing as a coach because you don't know if you'll have that kind of defensive performance for another half," Gillispie said. "Lucky for us, we weren't able to duplicate it, but we came close."

Acie Law led A&M; with 19 points, including 15 in the second half. He got help from Joseph Jones, who was saddled with first-half foul problems but scored seven of the Aggies' first 18 points in the second half. Jones finished with 11 points.

Regarding Wednesday's game against Texas, Gillispie said: "I've said some things about the tournament today, and I mean those things, but we don't worry about any of that kind of stuff. We'll get ready to play a great opponent on Wednesday and another one on Saturday (at Texas Tech). We do play one game at a time, and our guys have really bought into it."

Oklahoma, which will play Texas on Sunday, beat Texas earlier this year and twice last year.

If it comes down to the final seconds, the second-place Sooners (19-6, 10-4) should not lack confidence. They edged Kansas State, 71-70, on Saturday, just a few days after doing exactly the same thing by exactly the same score to Texas Tech.

Barring a miracle run in the conference tournament, Colorado and Texas A&M; go into the final week as the only Big 12 schools with a chance of nabbing an NCAA Tournament bid.

The Buffaloes spent Saturday mopping up the floor with what's left of the Missouri basketball program. It was the sort of loss that could only happen to a team that's fired its head coach and conducting an outside investigation of how it happened.

After taking a 15-point lead, Missouri suffered a 33-point turnaround and lost 78-60. That's nine losses in their last 10 games.

It must seem to haggard Tiger fans that their downtrodden team has a death wish. In their previous game, they lost a 10-point lead by scoring only four points in the final 11 1/2 minutes and bowed 54-51 to Texas A&M.;

At Colorado, Thomas Gardner scored 16 points and helped the Tigers bolt to a 28-13 lead. But he managed only three points the rest of the way.

The Tigers (11-14, 4-12) are now one game ahead of Baylor (3-11, 3-11) for last place.

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