No. 7 Texas AM heads into Tuesday night's game against surprisingly unranked Arizona with plenty of momentum, having started the season with seven consecutive victories, each coming by at least 11 points.
The matchup is the featured game of a doubleheader at the Valley of the Sun Shootout at Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of the NBA's Phoenix Suns. Texas AM (7-0) will play Arizona (5-3) at 9 p.m. ET, with St. John's facing Grand Canyon University at 11:30 p.m. ET.
Texas AM head coach Billy Kennedy has a team with a nice mix of talent, blending youth and experience with size and improved guard play.
The group is led by junior forward DJ Hogg, who is averaging 16.9 points per game and has had only one game with less than 15 points. Junior big man Tyler Davis is second behind Hogg with 13.6 points per game, to go with eight rebounds per game.
Texas AM also features one of the top NBA prospects in the country in 6-foot-10 post player Robert Williams, who decided to return to College Station despite being a projected first-round draft pick. Williams has averaged 8.8 points along with a team-high 10 rebounds. The potential lottery pick also has a team-high 12 blocks, despite missing the first two games because of suspension.
The Aggies' last game was Thursday, when they beat UT-Rio Grande Valley 78-60, but despite the scoring margin Kennedy was not pleased with how his team went about the win. Texas AM led by only seven points with seven minutes to play before pulling away.
"I'm definitely not very happy with the win," Kennedy said. "I thought the team could never get comfortable offensively or defensively. I probably tried to play too many people early."
Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been unhappy, too.
Miller questioned his team's effort after a 91-56 win over Long Beach State last week and the Wildcats (5-3) responded with a 91-88 overtime win at UNLV on Saturday night. Arizona was led by its two stars as junior guard Allonzo Trier (23.9 ppg) scored 29 points in the win, while freshman power forward Deandre Ayton (20.4 ppg) had 28 points and 10 rebounds.
Arizona is not in the Top 25 for a second consecutive week after falling out following three losses in three days at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament over the Thanksgiving holiday.
"We're working hard," Miller said. "We're not just going to turn it around ... but they've been working really, really hard. I think if you talk to the players they would echo that."
This game on Tuesday should feature one of the best post matchups of the early season, as both teams have an elite prospect and a lot of size up front. Ayton could make a run to be the top pick in the draft.
The teams are not strangers after playing each other in nonconference play last season in a Dec. 17 matchup in Houston. The game went down to the wire after Texas AM used a late 18-0 run to pull within two points before Arizona hit two free throws to win the game 67-63.
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