Texas A&M moved into sole possession of first place in the Big 12 by beating a storied rival for the first time. In order to stay atop the conference, the Aggies will have to knock off their biggest rival—and that team’s budding superstar—just two days later.
The No. 10 Aggies and their top-ranked defense should be severely tested when they meet Kevin Durant and No. 22 Texas on Monday night at Reed Arena.
Texas A&M (19-3, 7-1) took over first place by rallying for a 69-66 victory at sixth-ranked Kansas on Saturday night. Acie Law scored 23 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 20 seconds left, as the Aggies came back from a 10-point deficit with 6:33 to go and beat the Jayhawks for the first time in 12 tries.
“It’s a great feeling when you beat a team like Kansas on their home floor in front of this great crowd,” Law said. “This is one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and I’m sure a lot of people will feel that way also.”
The Aggies, holding opponents to a Division I-best 35.3 field-goal percentage, won’t get a chance to dwell on the big victory for long because of the quick turnaround to face Durant and Texas (16-6, 6-2).
Durant, the Longhorns freshman, is fifth in the nation with 25.3 points per game and should represent the biggest individual threat that Texas A&M’s defense has seen this season. Durant has been sensational in Big 12 play, averaging 33.1 points and 13.8 rebounds.
“We have to get ready for our next game because your next game is always your most important game,” Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie said. “We have to bounce back really quickly against a team (Texas) that is fantastic.”
Texas took two of three meetings with Texas A&M last season. Both teams won at home before the Longhorns pulled out a 74-70 victory in the Big 12 tournament semifinals.
The Aggies had lost 10 straight home meetings against the Longhorns before Gillispie took over two seasons ago. Texas A&M has won each of the last two matchups at Reed Arena, including a 46-43 victory March 1 on Law’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Clutch play is what Law has become known for with Texas A&M. The 6-foot-3 senior guard scored the game’s final five points Saturday, including the decisive 3 over 6-7 Kansas forward Brandon Rush with 20 seconds left.
“It was (Law’s) game at that point,” Gillispie said. “He told me he wanted the ball in his hands. So I said, ‘OK, you’re coaching, you got it.’ He’ll probably be a lot better coach than me.”
Law is averaging 19.5 points in conference play this season. He averaged 13.0 points while shooting just over 35 percent last season against the Longhorns.
Texas lost its share of first place in the Big 12 with a 73-72 loss to Kansas State on Saturday. Durant had 32 points and nine rebounds, but failed to touch the ball on the Longhorns’ last possession with his team trailing by three.
“We should have won that game,” Durant said. “We’re going to need to bounce back and get ready for A&M. We’ll have to execute the game plan and play hard and hopefully we will get the win.”
Texas guard A.J. Abrams had a miserable day, going 2-of-16 from the field and scoring seven points. Abrams has scored a total of 10 points in his last two games after averaging 16.6 points in the previous 11 contests.
“It was a tough night,” Abrams said. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in.”
The Longhorns are averaging a Big 12-leading 83.8 points per game, while the Aggies lead the conference with a 50.3 shooting percentage.