In recent years, Texas A&M could be expected to get back on track after consecutive losses with a home matchup against Baylor on tap. It could be different this year.
With their coach feeling some heat, the 18th-ranked Aggies look to avoid a third straight loss on Wednesday when they host the surprising No. 25 Bears, who are off to their best start in 62 years.
Texas A&M (15-3, 1-2 Big 12) is 13-0 at home and has won six straight meetings with Baylor (15-2, 3-0), but the Aggies’ poor conference start has put pressure on new coach Mark Turgeon. Turgeon inherited a strong team that went 13-3 in the conference last season under Billy Gillispie, who left for Kentucky.
There didn’t seem to be much of a transition period when the Aggies started 15-1, but they have been blown out in back-to-back road games, including a 75-54 loss to Kansas State on Saturday.
“Have I gotten the most out of my team the last few games? No,” Turgeon said. “But I know no matter what I do if we win, Gillispie gets all the credit and if we lose, it’s my fault. I’m in a no … win situation this year and that puts me in a bad mood.”
The Aggies are shooting 35.7 percent in their last two games and appear to be missing first-round draft pick Acie Law, who averaged 25.5 points in last season’s two wins over the Bears. His replacement, Donald Sloan, has scored a total of 15 points on 6-of-18 shooting in his last two outings.
Baylor hasn’t been much of a challenge for Texas A&M recently, but the Bears broke into the rankings for the first time since 1969 on Monday. They’re 3-0 in Big 12 play for the first time since starting 5-0 in 1997-98.
“They should be unbelievably confident coming in,” Turgeon said. “You got two different animals coming into this game. They had a road win against Nebraska, and they won their two (Big 12) home games and have had a heckuva year so they should be confident coming in.”
Baylor won 72-70 at Nebraska on Saturday to end a 25-game road losing streak in Big 12 play. It was the Bears’ first conference win on the road since beating Texas A&M 67-61 in overtime on Feb. 25, 2004 - also their last win over the Aggies.
“I know it made our trip home a lot more enjoyable than past road trips home,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “But I think confidence-wise, obviously all year long we’ve been comfortable so far coming from behind when we’ve been down at halftime. And this gives us even more confidence that we can come back on the road.”
The Bears brought back all of their key players from last season’s team, but have already matched that squad’s win total. This is their best start since they began 24-2 in 1945-46.
Baylor has five players averaging in double figures, led by Curtis Jerrells’ 13.0 points per game. Jerrells is one of three juniors in the starting lineup along with senior guard Aaron Bruce and sophomore center Josh Lomers.
“Crowds don’t seem to rattle us as much as they used to,” Drew said. “Credit the leadership of the players and the confidence they’ve reached.”
While Drew has guided Baylor into a tie for first place in the Big 12 with No. 2 Kansas, Turgeon is pleading for patience.
“Give me a chance, give this team a chance and I think we’ll be OK,” Turgeon said.