Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams likes the look of his team ahead of Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference home game against No. 20 Missouri in College Station, Texas.
The Aggies (10-5, 2-0 SEC) opened league play with a 66-63 victory at Florida last Wednesday and a 69-56 victory at home over LSU on Saturday.
“Through one week of the season and over the last six days, we’ve had great growth,” Williams said after his team beat the Tigers. “I think it’s not the results. I mentioned this to them yesterday, but that’s what metamorphosis is.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done over the last six days, but I’m really excited about how we could continue to grow.”
The Tigers (13-2, 2-1) are coming into this game on the heels of an 85-82 victory over Vanderbilt at home on Saturday. After enjoying fast starts in victories over Illinois and Kentucky and their loss at Arkansas, the Tigers had to overcome an early 10-2 deficit against the Commodores.
“I mean, it’s the SEC. Every team’s gonna be good coming out,” Missouri forward Noah Carter said. “It’s 11 a.m. when we started the game, so that might have had a little bit to do with it.
“But no, we just had to bounce back, persevere through all the runs because we’re gonna get every team’s best shot. So you know, just hunkering down and getting into our groove is all we needed to do.”
Missouri has enjoyed surprising success under first-year coach Dennis Gates by playing trapping defense and up-tempo offense. Gates has a nine-player rotation playing with great effort.
Effort has long been a trademark of Williams’ teams, and the Aggies embraced that high-energy style this season.
“I think we played really hard,” Williams said Saturday. “We played together. To some degree, we played with great IQ. The prep from our coaches and what we’re teaching, it’s all of that combined.”
Texas A&M presents a significant matchup challenge for Missouri, which usually features a smaller lineup with three or four guards. The Aggies outrebounded LSU 38-27 and outscored them 42-10 in the paint.
Missouri was outrebounded 46-27 in its victory over Vanderbilt. The Tigers allowed the Commodores to grab 15 offensive rebounds.
The Aggies have gained strong inside play from Henry Coleman III, who is averaging 10.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game this season. Julius Marble, who averages 8.9 and 4.7, respectively, on the season, totaled 34 and 15 over his last two games.
Missouri features multiple offensive threats, led by guard D’Moi Hodge (15.9 points per game), forward Kobe Brown (15.5), guard DeAndre Gholston (10.8) and Carter (10.7).
Gates has urged the physical Gholston to become more assertive at both ends of the court as the Tigers try to play bigger than they actually are.
“When you’re being challenged by your head coach, teammates, anything like that, you gotta take it personally in a good way,” Gholston said. “And I think tonight I just decided to come in with a better mindset and I just executed what Coach asked of me. And my teammates needed me and it worked out for us.”
–Field Level Media