DeAndre Jordan is only 19 years old, but so far in his freshman season at Texas A&M, he’s been nearly perfect. So has his team.
Jordan and the No. 14 Aggies (10-1) look for their 43rd straight regular-season non-conference home win on Saturday when they host UC Irvine.
The 7-foot Jordan, a preseason freshman All-America selection, is shooting 79.3 percent from the field - best in the nation among players who have at least 50 field-goal attempts. He was almost perfect again in Texas A&M’s 79-39 win over Detroit on Wednesday, making 7 of 8 shots.
But it wasn’t his 14 points and eight rebounds that impressed his coach the most - it was his defense.
“I thought DeAndre Jordan played his best game since he’s been here,” first-year Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. “I know it wasn’t his best numbers, but it was his best defensive game by far. I just want him to do all those little things defensively. There were times before when I felt like he was hurting us out there on defense and he did all those little things (against Detroit).”
The only time Jordan shot below 50 percent, the Aggies suffered their lone loss. He made just one of his four field-goal attempts on Dec. 2 , when Texas fell 78-67 at Arizona.
While he’s been nearly unstoppable shooting field goals, Jordan’s free-throw shooting needs some work. The freshman is just 12-for-43 (27.9 percent) from the free-throw line.
“Those first couple of games I was pretty nervous,” he said. “With 11 games now I’ve kind of gotten used to it and gotten into a routine.”
Jordan’s 9.5 scoring average ranks third on the team, behind junior swingman Josh Carter (13.4) and senior forward Joseph Jones (10.9).
As has become their custom, the Aggies are reliant on their defense to win games. Last season, they allowed 59.4 points per game - fewest in the Big 12 and 15th nationally. This season they’re yielding 58.0, which ranks second in the conference and among the top 20 in the nation.
Texas A&M is also in the top 10 in the nation with 43 rebounds per game and is averaging 11.8 more boards than its opponents.
These schools have faced each other only once, but that game holds some significance in Texas A&M history. The Anteaters won that meeting, 91-74, in the opening round of the 1980 KOA Classic, defeating a 7-0 Aggies team that came in ranked 11th nationally. The loss sparked a five-game losing streak and Texas A&M disappeared from the national rankings for 26 years before re-emerging in the 2006-07 preseason poll.
UC Irvine (4-6) has already played one game in the state of Texas, squandering a two-point halftime lead and losing 61-54 on Thursday at unbeaten Sam Houston State.
Patrick Sanders leads UC Irvine with 12.7 ppg and is second on the team with a 4.9 rebounding average.
The Anteaters rank second in the Big West in scoring defense, yielding 65.3 points per game.