Texas A&M Aggies

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 11:  Isaac Hamilton #10, Bryce Alford #20, TJ Leaf #22, Lonzo Ball #2 and Aaron Holiday #3 of the UCLA Bruins wait for a free throw against Pacific Tigers at Pauley Pavilion on November 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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No. 14 UCLA secures Wooden Legacy title with win over Texas A&M

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UCLA has as flashy of an offense as we’ve seen in college basketball in recent memory, but entering Sunday night’s battles with Texas A&M in the title game of the Wooden Legacy in Los Angeles, there were still plenty of questions regarding what they can be this season.

What happens when a team gets physical with them?

What happens when they get dragged into a slow-tempo, half-court game?

Are they going to be able to get enough stops to beat good teams?

And while it’s too early in the season to definitively give an answer to any of those three questions marks, the early returns sure are promising.

The No. 14 Bruins improved to 7-0 on the season with a 74-67 win over the Aggies on Sunday, an impressive performance against a team that plays the exact style that we all thought would give UCLA trouble. Billy Kennedy’s club wants to slow the game down. They want to pound the ball inside to Tyler Davis – who might be the pound-for-pound strongest man in college hoops – and Robert Williams. They win games not because they’re going to light up the scoreboard but because they’ve been pretty efficient at playing at their pace, keeping games in the 60s.

It didn’t matter.

Isaac Hamilton scored all 17 of his points in the first half, Lonzo Ball finished with 16 points, 10 assists, five boards and three blocks and Bryce Alford shook off a cold-shooting night to make a number of critical shots down the stretch. More importantly, Thomas Welsh and T.J. Leaf held their own against A&M’s front line and, when Steve Alford needed his team to make a play on the defensive end of the floor, they did just that.

We’re not quite sure how good this A&M team is going to be up being this season. With the pieces they lost to graduation and with projected starting point guard J.J. Caldwell ineligible, the Aggies do have some limitations.

What they are is a solid, well-coached team that plays a style that matches up well with how UCLA wants to play, and the Bruins got passed them in a game that never really felt like they were in danger of losing.

The real test for the Bruins comes on Saturday, when they head to Rupp Arena to face off with Kentucky.

And after UCLA’s run to the Wooden Legacy title, Bruins fans should feel a bit more confident that their team may be able to eke out a win on the road.

Field for 2016 DirecTV Wooden Legacy announced

Steve Alford
Associated Press
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Another in-season tournament field for next season was revealed, as the DirecTV Wooden Legacy announced the eight teams that will make the trip to Fullerton, California.

UCLA, which was led to ten national titles by the event’s namesake, will take part as well CSUN, Dayton, Nebraska, New Mexico, Portland, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. Six of the eight teams have made prior appearances in the event, with Dayton and Nebraska being the two programs who will make their DirecTV Wooden Legacy debuts next season.

Portland and Virginia Tech reached the title game in their prior appearances, with the Pilots losing to West Virginia in 2009 and the Hokies falling to UNLV in 2010.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 6 Duke, No. 12 Virginia win comfortably

Marshall Plumlee, Matt Jones, Amile Jefferson
Associated Press
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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Kansas 70, No. 19 Vanderbilt 63

Wayne Selden Jr. scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the Jayhawks rebounded from a early deficit to win the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. Selden played well all week in Maui, and against the Commodores he made eight of his eleven shots from the field. Fellow guard Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason III also scored in double figures, with Graham adding 12 points and Mason ten.

Damian Jones led the way offensively for Vanderbilt with 17 points while also grabbing ten rebounds and blocking four shots, but the Commodores’ cold night from three hurt them in the end. Vanderbilt shot just 6-for-27 from three on the night, while Kansas finished 8-for-16 from distance.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES 

UNLV 72, No. 13 Indiana 69: The Runnin’ Rebels held off the Hoosiers in Maui, winning the fifth place game at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational and going 2-1 in the event. Patrick McCaw led the way for UNLV with 20 points, six assists and five steals, and Ben Carter’s block of a Nick Zeisloft three-pointer in the final seconds preserved the victory. Zeisloft scored 17 points and James Blackmon Jr. 13 for the Hoosiers, who went 1-2 in Maui and looked nothing like the Big Ten contender many expected them to be.

No. 14 Gonzaga 80, Washington 64: The Bulldog front court once again led the way, with Kyle Wiltjer scoring 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in a 16-point victory. Domas Sabonis added 17 points and nine rebounds, and Przemek Karnowski accounted for 12 points and six rebounds.

No. 18 Connecticut 74, Michigan 60: Daniel Hamilton led five Huskies in double figures with 16 points while also grabbing nine rebounds as UConn beat Michigan at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Caris LeVert led all scorers with 20 points, but his early foul trouble led to a major shift in momentum in the first half. The other Wolverines combined to shoot 11-for-44 from the field. Next up for UConn is old conference foe Syracuse in Thursday’s semifinals.

STARRED

Chris Boucher, Oregon: Boucher set a school record for blocks in a game with nine while also scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the Ducks’ win over Arkansas State.

Christen Cunningham, Samford: Cunningham shot 8-for-10 from three, scoring 26 points in the Bulldogs’ 75-58 win over Idaho.

Darien Nelson-Henry, Penn: In a game that included the nation’s leading scorer in La Salle’s Jordan Price, Nelson-Henry scored 31 points and grabbed 14 boards in the Quakers’ 80-64 win over the Explorers.

STRUGGLED

Anthony Lindauer, High Point: Lindauer went scoreless in the Panthers’ 49-46 loss at Georgia, missing all ten of his field goal attempts.

Amar Stukes, La Salle: Stukes shot 1-for-12 from the field in the Explorers’ Big Five loss to Penn, scoring two points.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 2 Maryland put together its most complete effort of the season to date in the title game of the Cancun Challenge, beating Rhode Island 86-63. Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon scored 17 apiece (on combined 13-for-14 shooting from the field) and Robert Carter Jr. added 15 for the Terrapins, who had five players score in double figures.
  • No. 6 Duke pulled away from preseason Ivy League favorite Yale in the second half winning by 19 in Durham. Matt Jones led four Blue Devils in double figures with 17 points.
  • No. 12 Virginia also pulled away in the second half of its game, outscoring Lehigh 45-28 over the final 20 minutes in their 80-54 win in Charlottesville. Malcolm Brogdon led the way with a game-high 23 points.
  • No. 21 Oregon moved to 5-0 with a 91-68 win over Arkansas State. Chris Boucher (17 points, nine rebounds, nine blocks) nearly tallied a triple-double, and Dwayne Benjamin scored 25 off the bench for the Ducks.
  • No. 25 Texas A&M beat Texas 84-73 at the Battle 4 Atlantis, winning the first meeting between the two programs since the Aggies moved from the Big 12 to the SEC. Danuel House scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Anthony Collins added 15, five and six assists. They’ll play Gonzaga in Thursday’s semifinals.

NOTABLES

  • Michael Gbinije scored 26 points, Trevor Cooney added 19 and freshman Tyler Lydon racked up 18, eight rebounds and six blocks at Syracuse took care of Charlotte, 83-70, at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
  • Florida rebounded from its loss to Purdue on Sunday with an 86-62 win over Vermont. Dorian Finney-Smith accounted for 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals.
  • Wake Forest beat UCLA 80-77 to earn a third-place finish at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. Devin Thomas led the Demon Deacons with 21 points and nine rebounds, with Tony Parker pacing the Bruins with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
  • Bronson Koenig led six players in double figures with 16 points as Wisconsin beat Prairie View A&M 85-67 in Madison. Ethan Happ grabbed eight rebounds and Nigel Hayes dished out seven assists for the winners.
  • Jeremy Senglin scored 23 points as Weber State beat Murray State 75-59 to win the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida. Joel Bolomboy added 15 points and ten rebounds.
  • Geoffrey Groselle scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds as Creighton rolled to the Men Who Speak Up Main Event title with a 97-76 win over UMass in Las Vegas. Five Bluejays scored in double figures, and as a team they shot 51 percent from the field.

Texas A&M point guard Alex Robinson will transfer

Alex Robinson, Hugh Greenwood, Jordan Goodman, Antwan Space
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Texas A&M sophomore point guard Alex Robinson will transfer from the program, according to a release from the school. The 6-foot-1 Robinson is a former top-100 recruit who played a lot of reserve minutes as a freshman, but it appears that the Aggies might have recruited over Robinson at his position.

After averaging 18.8 minutes per game as a freshman, Robinson didn’t play in Texas A&M’s season-opening win over SC Upstate as freshman Admon Gilder came off the bench to contribute 16 points. Texas A&M also added graduate transfer guard Anthony Collins this offseason and senior Alex Caruso is also playing in front of Robinson. With the Aggies adding a top-100 point guard in J.J. Caldwell in the Class of 2016 for next season, Robinson would have had to battle for consistent minutes the next few seasons.

Because of the aforementioned depth at guard, Texas A&M should be able to withstand the loss of Robinson if they stay healthy this season. As a former top-100 prospect and a talented floor leader, Robinson will be an interesting transfer target for a school looking for a new point guard. Robinson averaged 5.2 points, 2.6 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game last season for the Aggies.

Texas A&M looks for first NCAA trip since 2011

Danuel House
Associated Press
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) The Texas A&M Aggies improved in each of the last three seasons and believe they will take another big step forward this year and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.

In fact, coach Billy Kennedy all but guaranteed it in March when the Aggies were eliminated in the second round of the NIT tournament.

“I’ll go on the record and say now we’ll be a tournament team next year … I’m talking about NCAA,” Kennedy said.

He has plenty of reason to be confident in his team with a trio of senior starters led by guard Danuel House, who is in his second season with the team after a transfer from the University of Houston.

House earned first-team All-SEC honors last season after finishing fourth in scoring in league play with 16.2 points a game. House is one of just three returning players in the SEC who earned first team honors last season.

House had a foot injury late last season and missed time in the offseason with a knee injury, but Kennedy said he’s “really healthy now.”

He’s joined by fellow senior guard Alex Caruso, who led the SEC with 182 assists last season to become the first player in the league to lead in that category in consecutive seasons since 2009. The third senior is forward Jalen Jones. He earned second-team All-SEC honors a year ago after averaging 13.7 points a game and leading the Aggies with 6.6 rebounds a game.

The Aggies ramped up preparation for the season on Wednesday night when they had their annual Maroon and White scrimmage. House was encouraged by what he saw.

“We just tried to focus mainly on defense, staying positive and sharing the ball with each other,” he said. “Not trying to be selfish or not trying to be outside ourselves because we have talent at every spot.”

Though those three are the leaders of the team, Kennedy, who is entering his fifth year at Texas A&M, is excited about the players behind them, too.

“We have more depth than we’ve had in the past and we have guys who can score,” Kennedy said.

The Aggies open the season on Nov. 13 against University of Southern California-Upstate.

Some things to know about the 2015-16 Aggies:

NEW FACES

The Aggies welcome a recruiting class that is arguably the best in school history. The group is highlighted by Tyler Davis, ranked by ESPN as the top player in Texas and the seventh-ranked center in the nation. He was named Mr. Basketball by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches after averaging 18.7 points, 12.2 and 3.4 blocks a game in leading Plano West to the 6A state title last season. He’s joined at A&M by high school teammate DJ Hogg, rated by some as the second-best player in the state. The forward averaged 17.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in Plano West’s championship season last year.

THE GRADUATE

A new addition on the team will also be one of the oldest ones. Anthony Collins is a 23-year-old who played 101 games with 98 starts at South Florida before joining the Aggies this year as a graduate student. Collins averaged 8.1 points and 5.6 assists in his career at South Florida. He gained an extra year of eligibility after missing most of the 2013-14 season with an injury. His 569 career assists at South Florida are second in school history.

ACT TWO

Texas A&M’s seniors are joined by Tavario Miller, Alex Robinson and Tonny Trocha-Morelos who all played at least 25 games a year ago. Robinson is a guard who appeared in 32 games last season and averaged 5.2 points a game. The Aggies are looking for more from Trocha-Morelos after the 6-foot-10 center from Colombia averaged just 1.5 points and two rebounds last year.

“He continues to get better and I think he is going to help our team a bunch,” Kennedy said.”

WHAT A TRIP

The Aggies got some early bonding time this summer when they went on a 10-day tour of Italy and Greece. The tour included four exhibition games and plenty of sightseeing. House, who made the trip but didn’t play because of an injury, said the experience was a great chance for the group to work on their chemistry in a low-key atmosphere before the hard work of the season began.

Four-star 2017 center commits to Texas A&M

Billy Kennedy
Associated Press
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While Texas A&M is still in the process of completing a 2016 recruiting class that currently consists of point guard J.J. Caldwell and power forward Robert Williams, that isn’t the only class they’re working on. Saturday afternoon head coach Billy Kennedy landed his first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as 6-foot-10 center Mitchell Robinson made his pledge to the SEC program.

News of Robinson’s commitment was first reported by CBSSports.com.

Robinson attends Landry-Walker HS in Algiers, Louisiana just outside of New Orleans, and he’s ranked 18th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com. Robinson played for the Alabama Challenge grassroots program this summer, and his performance at the EYBL Finals at the Nike Peach Jam in July led to more attention on the recruiting trail from high-major programs.

Playing in the 16U division, Robinson averaged 12.2 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per contest during the event.

Texas A&M has enjoyed a good run on the recruiting trail in recent years, with their 2015 class filled with talented freshmen capable of having an impact for a team that has yet to reach the NCAA tournament under Kennedy. Add in their 2016 commits and now Robinson, and Kennedy and his staff are well on their way to getting the Aggies back to the point where they’re playing in the NCAA tournament on a consistent basis.