Defense Wins

Texas A&M was one of the nation's top defensive teams before Mark Turgeon took over as coach and is primed to keep it going during his first season in College Station.

The 18th-ranked Aggies look for another solid effort on defense and try for a fourth straight victory as they visit Iowa State on Tuesday night in a Big 12 matchup.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Texas A&M –6.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 60% of bets for this game have been placed on Iowa State +6.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Texas A&M (18-4, 4-3) overcame one of its worst shooting days by remaining sharp on the defensive end in a 60-52 home win over Oklahoma on Saturday. The victory was the third in a row for the Aggies after they allowed 86.3 points per game in losing three in a row - highlighted by a 116-110 five-overtime thriller against Baylor on Jan. 23.

Since then, Texas A&M is allowing just 57.0 points per contest during its winning run - more than four below the 61.4 it yields on the season.

Saturday, the Aggies gave up their fewest points in conference play to make up for a dismal 35.4 shooting effort that included a 3-for-12 performance from 3-point range.

"It's times like this we just feel like our defense has to carry us,'' said senior forward Joseph Jones, who had 18 points and six rebounds. "Sometimes you're not going to make shots. They're not falling, but your defense has to step up and take control of the game for you.''

That's what the Aggies did Saturday and have been doing of late as they try to position themselves back into the Big 12 race. It starts with defense, where last season under former coach Billy Gillispie - now at Kentucky - the Aggies finished 15th in the nation, allowing 59.4 points per contest.

"Our identity is being a very good, tough, defensive-minded team,'' said associate head coach Scott Spinelli said. "Our play (Saturday) was indicative of our focus on the defensive end.''

Despite the Aggies' poor offensive showing, Jones continues to produce, averaging 14.3 points in his last three contests - bettering his season average of 11.8 points.

He's also played well against Iowa State, averaging 18.3 points on 57.6 percent shooting in three games. He had 21 points in the Aggies' 73-49 home win over the Cyclones on Jan. 31, 2007, in the teams' most recent meeting.

Turgeon is expected to be on the bench Tuesday after he went home ill immediately following Saturday's contest.

Though Texas A&M has won the last three matchups in the series, and Iowa State (13-9, 3-4) has lost three of its last four overall, the Cyclones are 3-0 at home in the Big 12 with wins over Missouri, Oklahoma State and Colorado.

Iowa State looks to bounce back from a 64-56 loss at Nebraska on Saturday.

With leading scorer Wesley Johnson out because of an ankle injury, the Cyclones committed 20 turnovers and shot 43.5 percent in scoring fewer than 60 points for the fourth straight contest.

"It is disappointing that we could come in and turn the ball over 20 times," Iowa State coach Craig McDermott said.

Jiri Hubalek had 18 points and could be asked to again carry the scoring load if Johnson, the 6-foot-7 sophomore who averages 13.9 points, is unable to play.

In his second season with the Cyclones, McDermott is 7-4 all-time against Turgeon. Both coaches made names for themselves building programs at Missouri Valley Conference rivals Northern Iowa and Wichita State, respectively, before taking over their current Big 12 schools.

Iowa State has lost eight in a row versus Top 25 opponents dating to a 72-60 win over then-No. 12 Iowa on Dec. 9, 2005.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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