The SEC's Worst Losses: Texas A&M

NO! ROD! YOU HAVE TO OPEN YOUR EYES WHEN YOU SHOOT! DAMMIT! - USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M has been all over the map in 2012-2013, beating quality opponents and losing to sketchy ones. Can Vanderbilt follow Southern's lead and rally past the Aggies?

Even the bright spots in Vanderbilt's 2012-2013 season don't shine for long.

Just as it looked like Vandy had turned a corner with an 18-point win over Arkansas, the Commodores were beaten back into their hole by arch-rival Tennessee on Wednesday night. Their usually-stout defense gave up 40 points in the first half, while their shaky offense put up only 46 points against a struggling Tennessee team. That win gave UT the season sweep over the 'Dores and stripped Vanderbilt of one of their few remaining chances to make a statement in 2013.

Vandy is now 3-8 in conference play and looking at long odds to finish at (or even near) .500 against SEC foes. They can start that trek with a big win over Texas A&M on Saturday. Vanderbilt's late-season schedule is a mix of low-level and upper-tier SEC squads. Games with Kentucky and Florida will be challenges, but they're mitigated with matchups against teams like South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn. This team has the opportunity to enter the SEC Tournament as a possible 7-8 seed if they can rally to a strong finish.

That begins with the Aggies, a streaky team that has been tough to predict in 2012-2013. They've beaten teams like Missouri and Kentucky and lost to opponents like LSU and the soon-to-be-reviewed Southern. Can Vandy tack another bad loss on A&M's resume? Let's look at how the Aggies played when they were at their worst back in December.

Texas A&M ( SEC, Unranked)

Worst Loss: vs. Southern (KenPom #156, CBS RPI #191) 51-53
Other Losses: vs. Florida, vs. Oklahoma, vs. Kentucky, vs. Saint Louis, at Alabama, at LSU, vs. Georgia, at Georgia

A&M suffered a resume-crippling loss in December when they let Southwestern Athletic Conference member Southern University leave College Station with a win. The Jaguars, who were 4-6 at the time, gutted their way through a low scoring affair by holding Elston Turner Jr. without a three-pointer and making four key free throws in the final 40 seconds of play. The Aggies led by two with under a minute to play, but fell behind when Malcolm Miller was fouled with five seconds left to play. A&M had one final shot to prevent the upset, but J'Mychal Reese's long-range three-pointer came up short at the buzzer.

Key to Destruction: Bench scoring. Southern was paced by reserve guard Miller, who led all scorers with 17 points. The Jaguars' freshman guard has been a spark plug from the bench in limited minutes, and his microwave touch carried SU to the upset. Miller has quickly developed into a reliable scorer for his team, but his emergence against a BCS-level opponent caught A&M off guard back in December.

Vanderbilt should hope for a similar performance from its less-heralded players on Saturday. Josh Henderson's breakout game in Knoxville nearly carried the 'Dores past Tennessee. Sheldon Jeter's emergence as a starter helped lead to wins over Auburn and South Carolina. Players like Dai-Jon Parker and Shelby Moats are still waiting for breakout games on the offensive end. If someone on the second tier of Vandy's scoring depth chart can step up and take the Aggies by surprise, it could lead to a momentum-building win at home.

Keys to the Game:
  • Capitalize on second chances. Southern pulled down more offensive rebounds than A&M despite being undersized, but wasted many of their opportunities to get second-chance points. The Jaguars had seven offensive rebounds but missed put-backs and lay-ups as they only converted on two of their follow-ups. Vanderbilt hasn't been especially good on the offensive glass, but they'll have an opportunity to shine against an Aggie team that plays a similarly small game as they do. Making the most of these extra chances will give the 'Dores an advantage at home.
  • Make your free throws. Southern only went to the line eight times - but they made all eight of those attempts. That included the four huge free throws that pushed this team to the win with under a minute to play. Vandy hasn't been hot garbage from the line lately - 16-23 against Arkansas, 14-19 against LSU - so there's a chance that Vanderbilt may have exorcised some of the early-season demons that doomed them from the charity stripe.
  • Defend the perimeter. Elston Turner Jr. is one of the SEC's most prolific gunners. He's putting up six three-pointers per game, and while he's only connecting on 38% of those, he's shown up in a big way from behind the arc in A&M's wins. He had six threes in a victory over Kentucky, five in a blowout over Northwestern State, and seven in the Aggies' most recent win against Ole Miss. He didn't hit a single three against Southern, though, and keeping him scoreless from long range could be the key to a Vanderbilt victory on Saturday.
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