Tyler Davis

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Balanced effort pushes Arizona past No. 7 Texas A&M

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Having struggled in non-conference play, most notably going 0-3 at the Battle 4 Atlantis, Arizona needed a quality win for its non-conference profile. The Wildcats picked up that win Tuesday night, as they beat seventh-ranked Texas A&M 67-64 at the Valley of the Sun Shootout in Phoenix. DeAndre Ayton, Brandon Randolph, Dusan Ristic and Dylan Smith led the way offensively for the Wildcats, scoring 13 points apiece, with Ayton adding ten rebounds.

Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis led all scorers with 21, but it wasn’t enough as the Aggies suffered their first loss of the season. Here are three takeaways from Arizona’s win over Texas A&M.

1. Arizona won despite an off night from Allonzo Trier.

The junior guard entered Tuesday’s game averaging 23.9 points per game, shooting 57.1 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from three and 78.0 percent from the foul line. Texas A&M managed to neutralize Trier, as he was just 2-for-7 from the field and finished the night with seven points to go along with three rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. Given Arizona’s struggles to get consistent offense from players other than Trier or Ayton in games against quality competition, the Wildcats finding a way to win despite the team’s leading scorer having an off night is a positive development.

In addition to Smith, who scored in double figures for the first time as a Wildcat, Randolph reached double figures for the third time in the last four games. Randolph, a part of Arizona’s highly regarded recruiting class, scored a total of six points in Arizona’s first four games. There’s still a lot to be improved upon, but grinding out a win despite Trier going cold is a positive for the Wildcats.

2. Tyler Davis may not be as high on draft boards as Robert Williams III, but he’s a tough cover for just about any front court.

Tuesday’s matchup between Williams and DeAndre Ayton was the one many NBA Draft types were looking forward to, as both have the potential to be lottery picks in June. But there’s something to be said for a veteran big man as well, with Tyler Davis being the one player Arizona did not seem to have an answer for defensively. Davis made nine of his 12 field goal attempts, doing much of his work on the low block.

Whether it was Ayton, Dusan Ristic or any other big man, Arizona could not do much to put Davis in situations where he would struggle to get a quality look at the basket. With Williams still being a work in progress when it comes to his offensive skill set, having a big man who can consistently produce offense on the low block will certainly help Texas A&M in its quest to win the SEC.

3. Arizona needs to be a bit more judicious with its shot selection.

Entering Tuesday’s game 31.9 percent of Arizona’s field goal attempts were three-pointers, a mark that ranked 280th in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Against Texas A&M the Wildcats attempted 22 three-pointers, making seven, with nearly 47 percent of Arizona’s field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. And outside of Dylan Smith, who made all three of his three-pointers, Arizona combined to shoot 4-for-19 from three.

Texas A&M’s front court can make it difficult on opposing teams when it comes to finding quality looks around the basket, but there were also instances in which Arizona settled for perimeter shots. The eventual return of Rawle Alkins should help with this, but there’s also no excuse for six of Allonzo Trier’s seven shot attempts being three-pointers.

If Arizona is to reach the expectations set for them before the season began, they’ve got room to grow on both ends of the floor. That being said, building on Saturday’s win over UNLV with this quality result should help the Wildcats moving forward.

Texas A&M picks up much-needed win over No. 14 Kentucky

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No. 14 Kentucky and Texas A&M entered Saturday’s game in College Station in far different states. John Calipari’s team was playing as well as any team in the country, as they’d won four straight games with each being decided by at least ten points. Texas A&M, on the other hand, had just ended a four-game losing streak and its chances of winning the SEC diminished as a result. An important game for both teams, it was Texas A&M that needed the momentum boost that can come with a big win.

And in somewhat controversial fashion the Aggies got the win they needed, beating the Wildcats 79-77 in overtime on a Tyler Davis put-back as time expired.

Davis’ shot capped a bizarre final ten seconds of overtime, beginning with Kentucky getting a stop up a point and freshman center Isaac Humphries being fouled. In his excitement Humphries spiked the basketball, but he and his teammates knew almost immediately what a risk that was. Humphries was given a technical foul, resulting in the Aggies getting two free throws themselves.

Danuel House made both of his, and with Skal Labissiere splitting his the game was tied. Now here’s the question: was the decision to give Humphries a technical foul the correct one? In many instances a player spiking the ball occurs in a fit of anger, and it’s generally understood that doing so will result in a technical. But Humphries clearly wasn’t angry, so could there have been a better understanding of the moment by the official?

This will be discussed for quite some time, but of greater importance for Kentucky down the line is what happened on the backboards.

Texas A&M grabbed 20 offensive rebounds, which works out to an offensive rebounding percentage of 40 percent, and scored 22 second-chance points. With the Aggies looking stagnant on offense at multiple points in the game, those extra opportunities proved to be quite valuable for them.

The Wildcats weren’t helped by the fact that Derek Willis, who’s been their best front court player in recent weeks, left the game with a sprained ankle in the second half. The positive for Kentucky was that Humphries produced his best game as a Wildcat, grabbing 12 rebounds with ten of them coming on the defensive end. The negative: the other Wildcat bigs combined for seven defensive rebounds, with Marcus Lee responsible for four of them.

Kentucky’s entire front court combined to grab 17 defensive rebounds. Texas A&M’s tandem of Davis (nine) and Tonny Trocha-Morelos (four) combined to grab 13 of the Aggies’ 30 offensive boards. Add in a game-high 24 points and eight rebounds from Jalen Jones, and Texas A&M was able to win the game despite the fact that Danuel House and Anthony Collins combined to shoot 3-for-20 from the field.

Texas A&M did their best to dare a Kentucky player other than Tyler Ulis (22 points, 11 assists) or Jamal Murray (21 points) to beat them, alternating between man-to-man and triangle-and-2 looks to make the two standouts shoot challenged mid-range shots. But Ulis and Murray still managed to make plays, nearly leading Kentucky to a win that would have preserved their two-game lead atop the SEC standings.

Ultimately, a technical foul and Kentucky’s inability to close out the game’s final possession with a rebound did them in.

No. 5 Texas A&M picks up statement win over No. 14 Iowa State

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Danuel House scored 20 and Tyler Davis added 15 points, including a couple of key second-chance buckets down the stretch, as No. 5 Texas A&M knocked off No. 14 Iowa State, 72-62.

This was a big win for an Aggie team that doesn’t get the same kind of hype as some of the nation’s other top ten programs. There are reasons for that — they’re not a name brand team, they didn’t have much hype in the preseason, they don’t have much in the way of star power, they play in a conference where football matters most everywhere other than Lexington — but it doesn’t change the fact that most people will see A&M with a No. 5 next to their name and think, ‘Really? I wonder who’s on that roster.’

Then today happened.

And the Aggies took down one of the most visible basketball programs in the country, picking off an Iowa State team that beat No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 4 Kansas in the last 13 days.

I’m not trying to say that this win should automatically make the Aggies the favorite to win the national title. Putting this into perspective, they beat a team ranked lower than them on their home floor on a night where that opponent’s best players either struggled shooting the ball (Monte’ Morris was 4-for-14) or dealt with foul trouble and a bruised hip (Georges Niang). In other words, no one that watched that game will definitively believe that Texas A&M is better than Iowa State.

But it was a marquee win that came on national television. It gave the nation a chance to see just how talented House is, how much of a handful Davis can be on the block, how difficult it is for opposing forwards to matchup with Jalen Jones.

They earned some respect on Saturday, which is almost as important as the conference landing another high-profile win in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. That may not seem significant, but big non-conference wins like this help the computer profile of the league as a whole.

All in all, it was a good Saturday in College Station, as Texas A&M entered with some question marks and left as the definitive favorite to win the SEC.

Turnovers, poor shooting cost No. 5 Texas A&M at Arkansas

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With 10 straight wins since a 13-point loss at Arizona State in early December, No. 5 Texas A&M emerged as the class of the SEC thanks to multiple scoring options, taking good care of the basketball and a solid defense. However those first two strengths weren’t present in Fayetteville Wednesday night, as the Aggies struggled to knock down shots and avoid turnovers.

The end result was a 74-71 loss at the hands of Arkansas, ending Texas A&M’s winning streak and also handing them their first loss in SEC play.

Entering Wednesday night no team in the SEC took better care of the basketball than Texas A&M, which turned the ball over on just 15 percent of its possessions in conference play. That wasn’t the case against Arkansas, as the Aggies coughed the ball up on 28.4 percent of their possessions (21 turnovers). Arkansas used pressure at times but it was more of the token variety, looking to take time off of the shot clock as opposed to speeding things up to the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” level that we’d grown accustomed to seeing from Mike Anderson-coached teams.

But Texas A&M made more mistakes in the half-court, with four starters having at least three turnovers on the night (Jalen Jones had five and Alex Caruso four, and some dubious offensive foul calls didn’t help either). Texas A&M was fortunate that Arkansas was unable to convert those turnovers into more points on the other end, as the home team scored 15 points off of Aggie turnovers.

Yet in dodging that bullet Texas A&M was unable to get over the hump as multiple key scorers struggled offensively. Outside of Danuel House (24 points, 7-for-12 FG) and Tyler Davis (14 points, 3-for-6 FG, 8-for-9 FT) the efficiency wasn’t there for a team that in conference games ranked second in the SEC in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Arkansas remained solid defensively, forcing Texas A&M to make challenged looks and at 39.6 percent shooting the Aggies were unable to do so at a high enough clip to get the win.

The question now is what do we make of Texas A&M, whose lead atop the SEC is down to one game in the loss column with their loss (LSU and Kentucky are 6-2, with South Carolina 5-2). While impressive in their seven wins to open SEC, Texas A&M’s best wins came at home against Florida and LSU.

The Aggies should still be viewed as the favorites to win the SEC, but they won’t lack for challengers either with games against each of the three teams directly behind them in the standings yet to be played. And the other games left on the schedule won’t be easy either, especially if the Aggies don’t take care of the ball as they have for the majority of their games this season.

Billy Kennedy’s team uncharacteristically struggled with turnovers against Arkansas, which was able to do enough to get the win.