Texas A&M moved on to a Thursday quarterfinal game against Kansas in the Big 12 tournament, but the ninth-seeded Aggies needed to burn a lot of energy to get there. Four Aggies played at least 33 minutes in Wednesday night’s 62-53 win over Oklahoma at the Sprint Center, raising the question of how much ninth-seeded Texas A&M has left for the 2 p.m. meeting with the top-seeded Jayhawks.
“We’re just excited to keep playing,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “You build momentum in tournament play. If you don’t win the first game, you feel like you were never even in the tournament. We’ll rest up, get these guys in the cold tubs and do the best we can to be as ready as possible.”
Texas A&M is 14-17. The eighth-seeded Sooners finished their season at 15-16.
The Aggies lost their last five regular-season games and struggled to finish off the Sooners. Texas A&M led just 45-43 with five minutes left before pulling away.
But, looking ahead to the next game, the two regular-season games against the Jayhawks gave the Aggies some reason for hope. Both meetings were close, with Kansas winning by 10 in Lawrence in January and by eight last month in College Station.
“We feel confident about tomorrow’s game,” said junior guard Elston Turner, one of the four Aggies who played a lot of minutes (36) and scored in double figures (14). “We have played Kansas close for both games. We feel like we can beat them. It will be tough but we feel like with the way everything is going, we can get the win.”
In the two games against Kansas, the Aggies worked to defend the post and limit the damage inflicted by Thomas Robinson. He had 18 points in the first meeting but only 10 points on three for 10 shooting the second time.
But in that game, Elijah Johnson had 21 points for Kansas on seven for 11 shooting.
“We attribute it a little bit to our defense,” Kennedy said. “We tried to limit Thomas Robinson both times and make other guys beat us.
“We’ve got to hope they miss from the three-point line. They’re so good in the post. We’ve got to be inside out and hope they miss perimeter jump shots.”
Texas A&M’s offensive balance against Oklahoma was another reason for hope. Khris Middleton and David Loubeau each had 15 points. Elston Turner had 14 and Ray Turner 12.
That makes four straight games for A&M with four players in double figures.
“It’s always a good game against Kansas,” Middleton said. “They compete real hard. We have to match their intensity and go over that.”