Across the (By)Line: Texas A&M Aggies basketball


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats forward Chris Livingston (24) shoots the ball during the Kentucky vs. No. 7 Alabama mens basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Alabama won 78-52. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

The “Across the (By)Line” series will give Kentucky basketball fans an in-depth look at their opponent for this week — from the mind of the opposing school’s sports editor.

This week: The Battalion, Grant Gaspard, Texas A&M

After a thrilling end to last season, how do you think this season has gone so far based on expectations?

It’s safe to say that the first half of the season did not meet our expectations after the run Texas A&M had in the SEC Tournament and then the run in the NIT before losing in the championship to Xavier. With additions such as transfers Julius Marble, Dexter Dennis and four-star freshman Soloman Washington, fans were hoping that these athletes would fill (the holes left by key departures) and pick up exactly where they left off. However, that wasn’t the case. They lost must-win games against Murray State, Colorado, Boise State and even Memphis.

Kentucky Wildcats forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) dunks the ball during the Kentucky vs. LSU mens basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 74-71. Photo by Isabel McSwain | Staff (Isabel McSwain)

Coach Buzz Williams realized that his players weren’t aware of what it took to win at the Division-1 level and the team dialed in and went to work. Dennis has finally brought the defensive intensity and the outside scoring that they needed, JMarble became the menace in the paint offensively and defensively that A&M had desired him to be at the start and after starting the season as a starter, Washington has been more valuable coming off the bench and has been a problem to opposing teams defensively. Wade Taylor IV has done a great job at getting others involved, hitting his shots from deep and creating significant turnovers on defense and leading the charge on fastbreaks. He leads the team in points per game, assists per game and steals and that doesn’t even come close to defining the impact he makes on this team. Tyrece Radford had a rough start to the season, however, after their last loss at home against Wofford, he has averaged 15.3 points per game and A&M has not lost a game since. The team has finally filled out and the team is playing how the fans expected them to play and the nation has seen that with their current 4-0 start in conference play.

It was a close contest last season between these two teams. Do you expect another tough battle this season or do you expect one team to have the advantage?

With the current run of the Aggies, I believed that this game on the road to Kentucky would be a cakewalk. With the loss away to Missouri and the loss at home to South Carolina, I saw a weakness in the heavy armor that Kentucky carries. However, this was until I watched its past two games against Tennessee on the road and Georgia at home. After Kentucky’s recent struggles throughout the season, I believed that the SEC was A&M’s for the taking, or Alabama’s, but Oscar Tshiebwe’s leadership and his willingness to gather the troops and remind his teammates what it means to wear blue and white (changed that). I expect another tough battle, this time in Rupp Arena.

Both teams currently have something to prove, what is it about this Aggies team that is going to give Kentucky trouble? What is the key to a potential TAMU victory?

As I mentioned under the question above, if A&M doubles Oscar in the paint and forces him to get rid of the ball, that will be one of the keys to victory. Win the rebound battle and continue to be a pest defensively like they have been the past four games. I would force Toppin to take over the game and prevent Sahvir Wheeler from making an impact offensively. Wheeler is one of the best guards in the nation and is capable of getting his teammates open as he averages over six assists per game. Antonio Reeves is also one of the better scorers for Kentucky this season so forcing him to take difficult shots will be key.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Cason Wallace (22) grabs a rebound during the No. 19 Kentucky vs. Louisville mens basketball game on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 86-63. Photo by Jackson Dunavant | Staff (Jackson Dunavant)

Wheeler, Tshiebwe and Reeves are Kentucky’s game-changers, so if A&M has any chance of winning, prevent those guys from making an impact and force Jacob Toppin to beat them alone. 

What do you think the final result will be when these teams face off?

I believe that A&M will get off to an early lead at the beginning of the game and will hold this lead throughout the matchup until the end. However, controlling leads against teams with talented guards has been a weakness, including against Missouri, where they allowed multiple runs and an almost comeback win. This time, especially on the road, they can’t allow this to happen. I believe A&M will lead the majority of the game and that Kentucky will catch fire and keep it close before A&M runs away with the five-point victory. Kentucky has always been the team to beat in the SEC, however they have only shown glimpses of this a couple of times this season. This will be a revenge game for the Fightin’ Farmers.