Texas A&M hasn’t had much success in the Big 12 Tournament, but the seventh-ranked Aggies hope to change that after falling short in their quest for a regular-season title.
Second-seeded Texas A&M (25-3) opens its conference tournament schedule Friday against seventh-seeded Oklahoma State.
Texas A&M finished the regular season winning four of its final five games and with its best mark in conference play in 11 years since joining the Big 12. The Aggies ended the season, however, one game behind Kansas in the conference standings.
The team’s impressive season led to coach Billy Gillispie being chosen Big 12 coach of the year. Now he looks to lead Texas A&M to its first Big 12 Tournament title.
The Aggies haven’t done well in the tournament. Last year’s semifinals appearance was the first time the team had made it out of the first round since joining the Big 12, and Texas A&M hasn’t won a conference tournament since defeating Baylor to win the 1987 Southwest Conference title.
The Aggies have a deep team, with four players averaging in double figures, but Acie Law is the unquestioned leader. The senior guard, who finished second in Big 12 Play of the Year voting to Texas’ star freshman Kevin Durant, is averaging 18.2 points and 5.3 assists. Law raised his game at season’s end, averaging 24.5 points and shooting 53.8 percent.
He scored 20 points in his regular-season finale against Missouri last Saturday.
“Acie Law is a dynamite player and I think he showed why he’s one of the top players in the country,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said.
Law and Texas A&M don’t need a win Friday for an NCAA bid, having spent nearly the entire season ranked in the AP Top 10, but a tournament title no doubt would be an ideal way for Law to close out his career with the Aggies, who finished 0-16 in the Big 12 his freshman year.
Texas A&M has won three straight over Oklahoma State (21-11), including both matchups this season. The Aggies had lost 18 of the previous 19 games between the teams.
Oklahoma State reached the quarterfinals with a 54-39 win over Nebraska on Thursday. Mario Boggan scored 11 points and JamesOn Curry and Marcus Dove each added nine as the Cowboys limited the Cornhuskers to 26.5 percent shooting from the field.
Sean Sutton’s team likely needs to win the Big 12 tournament in order to reach the NCAA tournament and has won just two of its last 10 games. Yet Sutton is optimistic advancing to the semifinals will give his team a chance for an at-large spot.
“I told our guys (Wednesday night), This is it. If you want to keep playing, this is our chance,’” Sutton said.
The Cowboys, however, have lost both games this season by a combined 38 points. Nonetheless, Boggan believes his team has a legitimate chance on Friday.
“First two times we … we weren’t playing defense that good, and our offense wasn’t clicking also,” he said. “So I feel like this time we are going to go out there and just play harder. I feel like it is going to be a better game than last two games we had played.
Boggan, the team’s leading scorer at 19.7 points, was held to a combined 18 in the two defeats.
The winner of this game will face either third-seeded and No. 15 Texas or 11th-seeded Baylor in the semifinals on Saturday.