Two closer-than-expected victories right before conference play have Texas A&M a bit concerned.
The 16th-ranked Aggies try for their first 11-game win streak in six seasons when they look to hand resurgent Oklahoma its first home loss in the teams’ Big 12 opener Saturday.
Texas A&M (13-1) has not lost since falling 67-65 to Boston College on Nov. 25. Seven of the Aggies’ last eight victories have come at home, although playing at College Station didn’t provide a big advantage in the most recent two games. Texas A&M won 66-57 over McNeese State last Friday and 66-55 over Nicholls State on Monday.
“We haven’t played well since we came back from the break so there’s a little concern there,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’ve practiced better this week, which usually indicates you’re going to play better on game day.”
Oklahoma (8-6) has the second-worst record in the Big 12 and is averaging a conference-low 68.8 points. The Sooners, though, have gone 5-1 since a five-game losing streak.
“The Oklahoma game, it scares you because it’s the first game of the league,” Turgeon said. “They’ve won five out of six and will have a little confidence going into this game, there will be a lot of energy out of their team. So we’re going to have to match that and their enthusiasm.”
Khris Middleton averaged 13.0 points and 5.0 rebounds against Oklahoma last season as Texas A&M shot 50.5 percent in sweeping the Sooners for the second time.
Despite their gaudy record, the Aggies are shooting 45.1 percent - third worst in the Big 12. Middleton, however, has been solid over his last four games, averaging 17.5 points on 52.4 percent shooting.
Texas A&M last won 11 in a row during an 11-0 start in 2004-05.
Turgeon cited the improvement of Cameron Clark as a reason for Oklahoma’s better play. The freshman is averaging 13.7 points and 53.3 percent shooting during the last six contests after averaging 5.5 points and 45.0 percent in the Sooners’ first eight games.
“I think he’s getting better,” Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. “I think he’s done some good things all year, it just hadn’t maybe equated to scoring.”
Capel has inserted 6-foot-2 Carl Blair into the lineup in the last four games, giving him four starting guards along with 6-8 forward Andrew Fitzgerald.
“They’ve gone small, playing a smaller lineup lately,” Turgeon said. “Jeff’s gone to playing a little more zone, put more shooters on the floor, more ballhandlers, and I think it’s really helped their team.”
The Sooners averaged 15.0 turnovers during the 3-5 start. They have used the smaller lineup to reduce that to 13.8 over the last six contests, although Capel wants that number to go down further.
“I think we definitely do play hard,” Capel said. “We haven’t played smart. That’s one of the things we’re trying to work on is be a smarter team. We have to be a team that has to try and minimize our mistakes.”
Oklahoma, 8-0 at home, will face a Texas A&M team has dropped its last three Big 12 road openers.
“It’s definitely a new season,” Sooners guard Steven Pledger said. “Everybody’s 0-0 now.”