Texas A&M isn’t looking at its successful run in the 76 Classic last weekend as validation.
After earning a spot in the rankings, the No. 19 Aggies try to extend their 45-game non-conference home win streak Wednesday night when they face Prairie View A&M.
Texas A&M (5-1) is ranked for the first time since being No. 22 on Feb. 18, 2008. Its school-record streak of 36 straight weeks in the Top 25 ended the following week.
This ranking was achieved because of how the Aggies fared in Anaheim, Calif. against three ranked teams in the 76 Classic. They sandwiched wins over then-No. 19 Clemson and then-No. 22 Minnesota around a loss to then-No. 8 West Virginia.
“We didn’t play great, but in the big picture, we are what we expected and we can get better,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “The players know how good I think they are.”
The Aggies have won with defense, limiting Clemson to 33.9 percent shooting and Minnesota to 38.6. West Virginia shot 51.1 percent in its victory over Texas A&M.
The strong overall defensive effort was necessary because the Aggies shot 43.8 percent from the field for the tournament and 55.1 percent from the foul line.
“Obviously, our offense wasn’t great but our defense was just good enough,” Turgeon said. “That was the difference.”
Turgeon also claimed his club’s poor effort against West Virginia was because senior guard Derrick Roland logged 24 foul-plagued minutes. Roland was hampered by a wrist injury that limited him to 12 total points in the first two tournament games before he scored 19 in Sunday’s 66-65 win over Minnesota.
“I had been getting treatment and I felt better today,” said Roland, a Big 12 all-defensive team selection last season. “I played loose.”
The Aggies haven’t lost at home to a non-conference foe since a 58-51 NIT loss to Saint Joseph’s on March 23, 2005. They have won 58 straight home non-conference foes in the regular season—all against unranked foes—since an 82-80 loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 13, 2003.
Prairie View A&M (3-2) hails from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, which features four winless teams. The bottom seven clubs in the conference are a combined 3-36.
The Aggies are 8-0 all-time against the Panthers, winning 81-49 in the last meeting in the 2006-07 season opener.
Only one of the Panthers’ three wins has come against a Division I foe - a 69-54 victory over Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 19. Prairie View A&M last played Saturday in a 101-38 win over Champion Baptist.
Leading scorer Darnell Hugee had 15 points and 15 rebounds on Saturday for his first double-double, and is averaging 15.4 points. The 6-foot-7 Hugee is the SWAC’s preseason defensive player of the year.