March 9, 2009

A&M making its case as it heads to OKC

Three weeks ago, Texas A&M was an afterthought in NCAA tournament conversations. The Aggies' three-year streak of appearing in college basketball's biggest show was in major jeopardy after A&M got off to a 3-7 start in the Big 12 conference and lost what many pundits called an "elimination game" to Baylor in Waco.

The Aggies, however, haven't lost since and are now riding a six-game win streak into the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City where they will play Texas Tech in the first round at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Ford Center. More importantly is that the Aggies are now considered a near NCAA lock by the majority of those same pundits who were writing the Aggies' postseason obituary less than a month ago.

"I think the locker room after the Baylor game was the low point, and I want to give Baylor a lot of credit. They played well that day and I've said that many times, but that was the low point. Derrick Roland said, 'Hey guys, we're going to leave this one in the locker room.' I think that was the best thing that has been said all year, and I think we did a great job of leaving it in the locker room and then we've just continued to get better," said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon during Monday's Big 12 coaches' teleconference. "We've won some close road games and we gained a lot of confidence, and then we became a pretty dominant home team at the end of the season. Our last three games - Texas, Iowa State and Missouri - really weren't close, so we're peaking. We feel good about ourselves and we know we have to get better, but I think Baylor was definitely the low point and we've fought back since then."

A&M's late-season heroics has come from all areas, proving that the Aggies aren't just talented but deep as well. The Aggies have gotten big games out of Bryan Davis, Chinemelu Elonu, Donald Sloan, Derrick Roland, B.J. Holmes, Dash Harris, David Loubeau and Nathan Walkup down the stretch.

But no one has been more important during the streak that senior Josh Carter who started to play like a senior who didn't want to see his career end on a down note. Carter took over the leadership reins, and is now closer to becoming the first Aggie in school history to play in four NCAA tournaments.

But A&M got a scare Saturday in A&M's 96-86 win over Missouri at Reed Arena when Carter had a Missouri player fall onto his leg, rolling his ankle in the process and limping off the court into the locker room. Carter returned to the game, but this week the ankle has been sore and he'll be a game time decision Wednesday.

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