Before opening Big 12 play this weekend, Texas A&M faces a tough nonconference tuneup Tuesday night when it hosts Winthrop.
The No. 11 Aggies (11-2) will look to win their 16th straight at home, but could be in for a challenge against Winthrop (10-3), an NCAA tournament qualifier the last two seasons which has suffered all three of its losses this season to ranked teams. In the most recent defeat, the Eagles pushed then-No. 11 Wisconsin to overtime Dec. 4 before falling 82-79.
The Aggies open their conference schedule Saturday at home against Kansas State.
Texas A&M, expected to battle for the Big 12 title with Kansas and Oklahoma State, has hardly been tested this season by its unranked nonconference opponents.
The Aggies rolled to a 101-27 home win over Grambling State in their last game Thursday. Texas A&M topped the 100-point mark for the first time this season and recorded the most lopsided win in the history of the Big 12.
Sophomore guard Josh Carter had 24 points and tied a school record with eight 3-pointers, the second time this season he has made that many in a game. Texas A&M matched a season high by hitting 12 3s on 28 attempts.
“Our offense brought the ball to me, they were leaving me open and I was knocking them down today,” said Carter, who’s shooting a team-best 53.1 percent from beyond the arc.
The Aggies continue to shoot well from 3-point range, making better than 41 percent of their attempts in their last four games.
Center Joseph Jones was 3-for-4 from behind the arc and finished with 20 points as Texas A&M shot 64 percent from the field in the first half against Grambling State. The Aggies have shot better than 50 percent in their last four games to raise their field-goal percentage to 52.4 on the season.
“I think our team is maturing into a pretty good team that really understands where the weapons are and where to find them,” Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie said. “We made a bunch of shots at the start so we got a big lead on them and continued to build from there.”
The Aggies, whose only losses came against then-No. 9 LSU and top-ranked UCLA in consecutive games in early December, would like to get off to a good start against Winthrop.
In addition to playing Wisconsin tough, the Eagles lost 73-66 to No. 2 North Carolina on Nov. 15.
The preseason pick to win the Big South Conference title, Winthrop is off to its best start in Gregg Marshall’s nine seasons as coach. The Eagles will play their third straight road game Tuesday before hosting VMI to open conference play Saturday.
Winthrop beat Old Dominion 71-65 on Friday for its fourth straight victory. Leading scorer Torrell Martin had 15 points to move up to 10th on the school’s all-time scoring list. The senior, who averages 16.0 points per game, has 1,204 points.
Tuesday’s game will be the first meeting between Winthrop and Texas A&M.