A&M;’s slate rugged
The Big 12 schedule-makers did Texas A&M; coach Mark Turgeon no favors this season. The Aggies (15-3), who were picked to finish fifth in the preseason league coaches poll, play their first five games against five teams picked to finish in the top half of the Big 12, with three of the games on the road.
A&M;, which beat Arizona, Alabama and LSU in nonconference play, dropped its league opener at Oklahoma State (72-61), then defeated Baylor (84-73) at home, before losing to Oklahoma (69-63) on Saturday in College Station. A&M; plays KU tonight, then travels to Texas on Saturday.
No other team in Big 12 history has had to play every team in the top half of the preseason coaches poll in its first five games.
“As a coach, you’re hoping that you’re going to turn it on and play well,” Turgeon told the Bryan-College Station Eagle before the start of league play. “We are a veteran team (with senior Josh Carter and four juniors including point guard Donald Sloan), but a lot are playing new roles. They have seen (Big 12), witnessed it and been through it, so that will help.”
OU game revisited
Texas A&M; held OU standout Blake Griffin to 16 points and six rebounds in Saturday’s 69-63 loss to the Sooners in College Station. The Sooners’ Austin Johnson scored 19 points with seven assists, four rebounds and two blocks.
“He (Griffin) still dictated the whole game because he knows how to play,” Turgeon told the Eagle. “That one hurts. I thought my kids never stopped trying. We made a few runs at them. Bottom line is, they have a heck of player in Blake Griffin. When you double him, he opens everybody else up.”
A&M; junior pivot Chinemelu Elonu, who entered with three straight double-doubles, had seven points and five boards in 25 minutes.
“Junior's been carrying us, scoring down there for us, rebounding for us,” Turgeon told the Eagle.
Last visitor to win here
The Aggies were the last team to win in Allen Fieldhouse — 69-66 on Feb. 3, 2007. KU entered the game ranked No. 6 in the country, A&M; No. 10. A&M; trailed by 10 with 61⁄2 minutes left.
Acie Law IV (23 points) hit a three with :20 left to give A&M; the lead for good. Carter started as a sophomore in that game and scored 11 points. Sloan (four points, two assists) and Bryan Davis (four points, four rebounds) played key roles in the victory as freshmen. Chinemelu Elonu, also a freshman at the time, made a brief appearance but did not score. The Aggies are the only Big 12 South division team to win in Lawrence since league play began in 1997.
Kansas leads the series, 13-1, and has won two straight. Kansas has a 5-1 edge in games played in Lawrence.
Sherron Collins on A&M;
“A&M; is really good. They didn’t lose too many guys from last year. It’ll be a real tough game. We’re going to be at home on Big Monday. Our crowd will be there to support us. It won’t be a walk in the park, though.”
Collins played 37 minutes in Saturday’s 73-56 victory at Colorado.
“I’m all right with it, all the minutes. I’m healthy, nothing’s wrong with me. Nothing’s dinged. I’m fine,” Collins said.
KU coach Bill Self had a busy Saturday. He coached the Jayhawks in Boulder, Colo., then flew to Springfield, Mo., to watch recruit John Wall score 41 points in the title game of the Tournament of Champions Tournament. The 6-foot-4 Wall either scored or assisted on the last 25 points in Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God Christian Academy’s 80-77 victory over Olympia High of Orlando, Fla. Wall is considering KU, Baylor, Memphis, Duke and others.