By Manny Nunez
In the all-competitive SEC, all Texas A&M has wanted to do year-in and year-out was to stay relevant. To no surprise, however, the Aggies entered this season as one of the top teams in the conference and were picked third as they return eight players, including four starters.
A lot from what they have carried over from last year has become a testament to their performance as they entered Galen Center still undefeated at 5-0 and poised to not let that record be tainted. D.J. Hogg led five Aggies in double figures and carried off a solid second half surge to pull away against USC and win their rematch from a year ago, 75-59.
The Aggies’ agility and dominance defensively has become the forefront of their success so far. The importance of Tyler Davis inside to snag boards, as well as their spread scoring from Hogg and Duane Wilson to helped control the tempo.
Against the Trojans, those three took away chances from the Trojans at a possible comeback as the Aggies somehow saw their lead evaporate midway through the second half. Hogg and T.J. Starks off the bench ended all hopes of a comeback, carrying the Aggies on a 13-0 run to that gave Texas A&M a 61-45 lead with 8:34 remaining.
“It came to lockdown defense and transition scoring,” Hogg said. “A lot of us came through in the second half and forced a lot of bad shots from outside the perimeter. It has been what we have done all year to get these big wins”
What was impressive though is how Robert Williams, considered by many a Top 10 pick next year’s NBA Draft, didn’t have to reach double figures to influence the game as he played tough position defense and grabbed eight boards. Texas A&M outrebounded USC, 52-39 with 15 of those coming on the offensive glass.
Like many other SEC teams, Texas A&M has upgraded their non conference schedule to give themselves exposure. They have so far beaten then No. 11 West Virginia in Germany, as well as Oklahoma State and Penn State. Now adding another win over another ranked team in USC, the Aggies moved up seven spots from No. 16 to No. 9 in the latest Top 25 poll which was release on Monday.
“We keep coming in with a chip on our shoulder to continue to prove ourselves,” Starks said. “We know that a lot of people don’t talk about us. Right now we are continuing to play our game so that people can see us more and more and start taking us seriously. Not going to lie, but we are tired of playing the undercard.”
A&M fans probably don’t mind that many people outside of College Station are talking about them just yet. They still have one more true test against Arizona on the road December 5. After that, they have their juggernaut conference schedule. By then, the Aggies will hope that they can be in the talks of more than just being a team on their foes schedules and instead make a lot of noise.
Texas A&M imposed it’s physicality in the game, especially inside where the Aggies held USC stars Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright to a combined 8-of-27 from the field and 23 points.
“We go really hard at each other in practice so that really prepared us for other teams,” said Starks, “Coming out there tonight with our focus allowed us to key on other players on their team and we played great help defense to get the job done.”