A three-game losing streak is an easy way to fall out of contention in a conference race. A four-game win streak is a good way to get back into one.
Still recovering from its early skid in Big 12 play, 18th-ranked Texas A&M goes for a fifth straight victory on Saturday when it visits Missouri, which is hosting its fourth ranked opponent in five conference home games this season.
The Aggies (19-4, 5-3) improved to 15-1 by beating Colorado in their Big 12 opener on Jan. 12. After that, however, they dropped three consecutive contests, punctuated by a heartbreaking five-overtime defeat to then-No. 25 Baylor on Jan. 23.
At 1-3, Texas A&M was in a bad spot in the deep Big 12, but the Aggies have rebounded with four consecutive victories.
“We’re getting there,” said Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon, whose team has pulled within a half-game of third place in the conference - a spot shared by No. 12 Texas and Baylor. “We’re playing with much more toughness and much more poise, home and away.”
Turgeon’s team has used a balanced offense and a stingy defense during its win streak. Three different players have led the Aggies in scoring over the last four games, and they’re holding opponents to an average of 55.5 points in that stretch.
“We don’t care who scores the most,” said Josh Carter, one of six players averaging at least 8.0 points with a team-high 13.3. “Whoever is getting it done that night is going to get the most touches.”
Carter was one of six Aggies with at least eight points in Tuesday’s 69-51 victory over Iowa State.
“Nobody sees a problem with it,” said Donald Sloan, who had 11 points, six rebounds and four assists. “I guess sharing the ball is key. We’ve been doing it the last four games and we’ve come out on top.”
Texas A&M will put its win streak on the line against a Missouri team that has already upset two ranked teams this season. The Tigers (13-10, 3-5) sent then-No. 12 Texas to a 97-84 loss in both teams’ conference opener Jan. 12, and they defeated then-No. 22 Kansas State 77-74 last Saturday.
The Tigers are 2-3 against ranked opponents this season, including 2-1 at Mizzou Arena, where they’ve played just one conference game against an unranked team.
Missouri has been missing several players due to injuries and suspensions stemming from a fight outside a Columbia, Mo., night club on Jan. 27. Jason Horton and Darryl Butterfield returned on Monday, but the absence of leading scorer Stefhon Hannah, who broke his jaw in the incident, was too much to overcome as the Tigers lost 90-71 at No. 4 Kansas.
“We have been playing short-handed the last two games,” said Missouri guard Keon Lawrence, who had 25 points and played 36 minutes. “A lot of guys are playing a lot of minutes who aren’t used to that. I think tonight the minutes kind of caught up with us because we didn’t go after the ball aggressively at all.”
The four-day layoff between that loss and this game is the longest for Missouri in more than a month, so coach Mike Anderson gave his players a day off earlier this week.
“It’s real good for us,” Lawrence said. “Now we’re getting our legs back, our mojo back.”
Hannah, whose injury could keep him out for the rest of the season, was arrested Friday on third-degree assault charges. Even if he is healthy enough to return, Hannah has yet to been reinstated by the program.
The Tigers lead the all-time series with the Aggies 11-5, but have lost the last three meetings by an average of 15.7 points.