The Sports Network
By Andrew Gaddess, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sprint Center (18,555) -- Kansas City, Missouri. Television: Big 12 Network. Home Record: Texas A&M 15-2, Texas 16-2. Away Record: Texas A&M 5-4, Texas 7-3. Neutral Record: Texas A&M 4-1, Texas 3-1. Conference Record: Texas A&M 10-6, Texas 13-3. Series Record: Texas leads, 134-85
GAME NOTES: The Big 12 Conference Championship title game paring will be decided tonight, as the third-seeded Texas A&M Aggies and the 10th-ranked and second-seeded Texas Longhorns square off in a semifinal bout from the Sprint Center.
Tonight's victor garners a date with the Colorado/Kansas winner in Saturday's title game.
Texas A&M, which entered the tournament with the second-highest seed in program history, won six of its final eight regular-season games to finish in third place in the Big 12 standings. The Aggies opened Big 12 Championship play with an 86-71 victory over Missouri in Thursday's quarterfinals to advance to the semis.
After receiving the second-seed and a first-round bye, Texas convincingly dispatched 10th-seeded Oklahoma, 74-54, in Thursday's quarterfinals. The win was a welcome one, as the Longhorns dropped three of their final five games to close the regular season, finishing at 13-3 in league play..
The Longhorns dispatched the Aggies with relative ease in a pair of regular season meetings, posting an average margin of victory of 20.5 ppg in the two wins. Texas now leads the all-time series 134-85.
Texas A&M got off to a quick start and never looked back in Thursday's victory over Missouri. In particular, David Loubeau got off to a quick start, as he scored the Aggies' first eight points in what turned into a rollicking Texas A&M first half. After 20 minutes of play, the Aggies had compiled 46 points on 60.9 percent (14-of-23) shooting, including a 5-of-11 clip from beyond the arc, to take a commanding 13-point lead into the break. The second half saw more of the same as Texas A&M shot 54.5 percent from the field, 60 percent from three-point range and 81.3 percent (13-of-16) from the charity stripe to seal the victory. Loubeau and B.J. Holmes each finished with 20 points in the win, while Nathan Walkup added 16 points. The Aggies also posted a 35-27 rebounding advantage. Don't consider the sparkling offensive effort the norm, as Texas A&M ranks ninth out of 12 conference teams in scoring (69.2 ppg) and ranks eight in field goal percentage (44.8). In contrast, it is typically the Aggies' defense that earns wins, as they sport Big 12's second-best scoring defense (60.7 ppg). Three players (Khris Middleton, Holmes and Dash Harris) have recorded over 30 steals for the Aggies, who also post a plus-7.1 rebounding margin. Middleton and Loubeau lead the offense at 14.2 and 11.9 ppg, respectively.
Texas jumped out to a commanding lead against overwhelmed Oklahoma on Thursday night before hanging on for the victory. Even with a 23-point halftime lead, a Longhorns' win was not a foregone conclusion, as the normally stingy Texas defense struggled maintaining healthy leads down the stretch of the regular season. After the break, the Sooners were able to slice seven points off the inflated halftime margin, but they would get no closer, as Texas hung on for the win behind solid defense and strong performances from Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson. In all, the Longhorns held Oklahoma to just 40.4 percent shooting, including 23.1 percent (3-of-13) from three-point range. Hamilton recorded a double-double with 22 points and 10 boards, while Thompson tallied a double-double as well with 13 points and 11 boards. J'Covan Brown played well in a reserve role, netting 11 points and handing out five assists in 23 minutes of action. Hamilton continues to drive Texas forward, as he currently paces the squad in scoring (18.6 ppg) and three-pointers made (84) and second in rebounding (7.7 rpg). Thompson ranks second on the team in scoring (13.4 ppg) and first in rebounding (7.8 rpg). Despite their recent slump, the Longhorns typically earn wins on the other end of the floor, as they sport the third-best scoring defense in the Big 12 (60.8 ppg).
Expect Texas A&M to win this one. The Aggies have been playing particularly well of late, while Texas, in spite of its victory over Oklahoma, has struggled.