“New York is where we need to be,” Texas A&M guard Quenton Jackson said after Wednesday’s easy 67-52 win over Wake Forest in the NIT tournament. “New York is where we need to handle business.”
The win over Wake Forest booked A&M on a one-way business trip to Madison Square Garden to prove the NCAA selection committee wrong. Even after the Aggies’ tournament hopes experienced a gut-wrenching end two weeks ago, the focus has remained on the job at hand.
The Washington State Cougars now stand in the way of an A&M team that has nothing to lose and everything to prove. The two teams meet Tuesday night in New York City for only the third time ever, with the all-time series split 1-1.
Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest
The most recent meeting in 2012 saw A&M get the best of Washington State in a tight 55-54 win. The Cougars won the first-ever meeting in 1997.
After missing out on March Madness following an SEC Championship loss to Tennessee, A&M has been on a new level. In all three NIT games, the Aggies have won by double-digits. In 10 of its last 11 games, A&M has won by 10-plus in seven.
The Cougars have seen similar success, winning eight of their last 10. All three wins in the NIT have come by 12 or more.
“Distinct offense, incredibly effective defense,” A&M coach Buzz Williams said Saturday. “They’re top 30 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage.”
Coach Buzz has been doing his research. The Cougars have the 17th-best offensive rebounding percentage (32.6 percent) in the country and lead the Pac 12 in steals per game (7.7). Washington State also has three players in the top 10 in steals per game in the conference.
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Wade Taylor IV
Wade Taylor IV
Washington State is led by the electric offensive prowess of guard Michael Flowers, who made history for the Cougars in Wednesday’s win over BYU.
Behind 27 points and four 3s, Flowers broke former Cougar Klay Thompson’s mark for 3s made in a single season. The Golden State Warriors guard is considered by many to be one of the greatest spot-up shooters in NBA history.
Flowers’ focus on the 3-point shot is a philosophy shared by the rest of the team. Washington State leads the Pac 12 in 3s made (324), 37 more than the next closest team (Arizona).
The senior also leads the team in assists (4.3), good for third in the conference. He’ll present a tough matchup for anyone in the A&M backcourt.
With a win, the Aggies will be one game away from capturing their first NIT title in program history in what has been a memorable season. Tuesday’s tipoff at Madison Square Garden is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
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