December 15, 2008

A&M's big wins build confidence

In the last two weeks Texas A&M has only played two games with finals sandwiched in between, but both games will go a long way into determining where the Aggies will be playing in March. After come-from-behind wins over Arizona and Alabama, the Aggies seem to have the confidence for a big run.

The Aggies didn't see their first lead against the Wildcats until Nathan Walkup hit a 3-pointer to give A&M a 67-66 lead in the final 30 seconds, and it proved to be the game-winner. In Tuscaloosa Saturday, Walkup stepped up again to cut the Alabama lead to two points with 17 seconds remaining. After Alabama guard Mikhail Torrance hit one-of-two free throw attempts, A&M sophomore guard B.J. Holmes drilled a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to force an overtime period in which the Aggies pulled away for an 86-78 win.

"We don't like being down, but we played Arizona who is a pretty good team in our building and we did what we had to do and I thought Alabama played at a high level. It's given us confidence and the good thing is we can learn and we're still winning," said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. "We're not starting games the way we need to start games and it's really hurt us. We didn't handle adversity very well in the second half against Alabama when it hit and we need to handle it a little better, but we are gaining confidence that we can come back. And there was really no panic by our team. We were a little disappointed late in that game when we got down five, but guys stepped up and did exactly what we needed to do and got it into overtime."

Walkup, a 6-foot-5 sophomore who was moved from small forward to power forward in the preseason in order to take advantage of smaller lineups, played just eight minutes in each game against Arizona and Alabama but was perfect from the field. His game-winning 3-pointer against Arizona was his only bucket of the game. Against Alabama, Walkup was a sterling 3-3 from the field with seven points.

"He's hit some big shots for us. That was a tough matchup for him (at Alabama). They have some big players so we weren't able to play him as much as I'd like, but he's hit a lot of big shots for us this year," Walkup said. "B.J.'s wouldn't have mattered if it wasn't for the shot that Nate hit. He hit a big one with about 17 seconds to go. He's proven that he can make some big shots for us.

Holmes, meanwhile, hit the biggest shot of the night in Tuscaloosa and then helped ice the game in overtime with a few clutch free throws. After a slump to start the season, Holmes has been nothing but money for the Aggies.

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