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The SEC's Worst Losses: Texas A&M (Part II)

A Vanderbilt win means a likely trip to the NCAA Tournament - but the 18th-ranked Aggies won't make it easy.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

A win against No. 18 Texas A&M on Saturday would make everything much, much easier for Vanderbilt basketball.

The Commodores can all but guarantee an at-large NCAA Tournament bid and set themselves up for a free pass to the quarterfinals of the SEC bracket by notching the biggest road win of their season. Vandy already has one victory over the Aggies - a 77-60 thrashing in Nashville - but it will face a much tougher test in College Station.

Texas A&M has rebuilt its season with a five game winning streak, but there isn't much substance in its recent schedule. The Aggies earned a big home win when they toppled then-No. 14 Kentucky at home, but the rest of their Ws have come against Ole Miss and SEC bottom-feeders Mississippi State, Auburn, and Missouri. Of course, to A&M's credit, Vanderbilt suffered defeats to the first two teams on that list, so...¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Neither of these teams has tasted defeat in more than two weeks, but one of them will head into the conference tournament on a one-game losing streak. So how can Vanderbilt upset the ranked Aggies in their own house? Here's how the Commodores were successful the last time these teams met.

No. 18 Texas A&M (23-7, 12-5 SEC, ranked No. 23 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings)

Worst Loss: at Arkansas (16-14. 9-8 SEC, No. 65 KenPom, No. 112 CBS RPI), 71-74

Most Relevant Loss: at Vanderbilt, 77-60

Vanderbilt didn't just lock down the biggest win of its season to date on February 5th; they also nearly derailed Texas A&M's whole season. Vandy's home victory sent A&M into a four-game spiral that pushed the then-No. 8 Aggies out of the rankings altogether.

Damian Jones and the 'Dores came out firing, striking out to an early 11-1 lead that forced Billy Kennedy to burn his team's first timeout less than two-and-a-half minutes into the first half. The Aggies turned that deficit into a 28-24 lead 12 minutes later, but that momentum was not sustainable. Vandy tore this game open with a 9-0 run to start the second period and led by double digits the rest of the way for a comfortable home victory.

Point of emphasis: Timely shooting. It seemed like every time the Aggies pulled close, Vanderbilt answered with a huge jump shot - and not just from its usual sources. Luke Kornet and Camron Justice each hit huge, momentum-squashing three-pointers late in the game that stopped any hope of an A&M run. Wade Baldwin's half-ending three sent the 'Dores into the locker room with a seven point lead. When TAMU threatened, Vandy's shooters had a response.

Keys to the Game:

  • Let Damian Jones lock down the paint. Jones only scored 13 points (on 6-9 shooting), but he kept Vanderbilt possessions alive with five offensive rebounds and added five blocked shots in an exceptional effort from the Commodores' center. His efforts redirecting shots helped limit A&M to just 40% shooting on its two-pointers.

  • Protect the ball. Vanderbilt only forced seven Aggie turnovers back in February, but that led to 10 opportunistic points for the Commodores. They probably *can't* expect to make more than half their shots against A&M for a second-straight game, so creating more scoring opportunities - and fast break baskets - will be a vital source of easy points.

  • Attack the basket. The Commodores attempted just six free throws against A&M and drew only 10 total fouls in the game. That's a far cry from the 21 fouls they've drawn per contest in a four-game winning streak. The Aggies have averaged 18.5 fouls per game this season, so another weak performance at the charity stripe is unlikely - even with some home cooking from SEC refs in College Station.