Since suffering its only loss of the season, Texas A&M has taken full advantage of a lengthy homestand and an easy stretch in its schedule.
That trend is likely to continue Monday when the No. 14 Aggies host struggling Rice.
The Aggies (12-1) have won five straight - all at home - including an 83-54 rout of Florida A&M on Saturday. Since losing 78-67 at Arizona on Dec. 2, Texas A&M hasn’t faced much of a challenge, winning all five games by at least 20 points while holding opponents to 53.8 points per game and 31.4 percent shooting from the field.
None of the five opponents in that stretch has been a major-conference school, though, and only one - Texas State at 6-5 - currently owns a winning record.
“I think our guys need competition,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’ve been a little bit bored playing out there and we’re playing that way. We need a stiffer test.”
The Owls (3-7) play in relatively competitive Conference USA, but own the fewest wins in that league. Stiffer tests will likely come after the New Year, as Texas A&M hosts SEC school LSU on Saturday before opening its Big 12 season Jan. 12 at home against Colorado.
After a week-long layoff, the Aggies got off to a slow Saturday against the Rattlers, who went ahead 5-0 and then 12-10, but Texas A&M still amassed a 17-point lead by halftime.
“I thought we were sluggish,” said Turgeon, whose team still managed to top 80 points for the fifth time this season. “We took some time off and it showed early. Then finally at about the 10 minute mark our guys started guarding a little bit and did well pretty much the rest of the game.”
Junior swingman Josh Carter led the Aggies with 20 points while DeAndre Jordan added 15. It was the second 20-point game of the season for Carter, who had 23 against UTEP on Nov. 14 and is averaging a team-high 13.6 points per game.
Rice avoided a three-game losing streak by beating TCU 70-65 on Saturday. Lawrence Ghoram scored 26 points and added 10 rebounds for the Owls while Rodney Foster had 14 points and six assists. Leading scorer Patrick Britton scored 13 points - slightly above his 11.3 season average - and had eight rebounds.
Rice won despite committing 25 turnovers, 14 by Foster alone. Foster already has 41 turnovers in just 10 games this season.
Texas A&M and Rice used to face one another twice a year as members of the Southwest conference. This is just the second meeting since that conference dissolved, with the Aggies winning 56-53 on Dec. 11, 1999, in the last contest between them.
Overall, Texas A&M leads the all-time series between the teams 104-81, including 59-34 at College Station.