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Texas A&M Basketball

Texas A&M looks to exploit size advantage inside against the Friars

March 15, 2018
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cinema cameras, smart-screen TVs, laptop computers and other high-tech gizmos are available, but Providence basketball coach Ed Cooley went old school on Thursday morning to deliver a scouting report on Texas A&M.

He eschewed an iPad for a legal pad.

“When we woke up this morning everybody saw what the scouting report was in their room,” Providence senior guard Kyron Cartwright said. A big, yellow paper right in front of the TV says “box out.” That’s the scouting report. Box out.”

Modern technology isn’t necessary to ascertain that Texas A&M will have a low-post advantage against smaller Friars on Friday at Spectrum Center in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.

“It’s no secret Texas A&M is a very physical team,” Cooley said. “They’re a powerful team, they have NBA size in a lot of different positions. And we feel if you give them second, third and fourth opportunities they’re going to have a chance to really beat you.”

The Aggies (20-12) are bigger inside with 6-foot-10 Tyler Davis and 6-10 Robert Williams. A&M shoots a higher field goal percentage, rebounds better and blocks for shots than Providence (21-13).

A&M’s ability — or inability — to fully capitalize on that advantage and also contain Providence’s transition offense likely will determine whether the Aggies can survive and advance or are one-and-done.

But will that be enough?

A&M’s ability — or inability — to fully capitalize on that advantage and also contain Providence’s transition offense likely will determine whether the Aggies can survive and advance or are one-and-done.

“We hope our size and length is something they haven’t seen a whole lot of,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “that usually gives people problems because we go 6-10, 6-10 and 6-9 at the front line and at times play zone. That will be able to bother them some, hopefully.”

The Aggies are counting on Davis, who averages 14.5 and 8.8 rebounds, to dominate inside. They’re hopeful Williams will break out of a recent offensive slump. They’ll be looking for second and third chances against the Friars, whose biggest full-time starter is 6-8, 225-pound senior forward Rodney Bullock.

“I just need to do my job like I have been all year,” said Davis, who has scored at least 13 points in five of the last six games. “Coach Kennedy is going to get the ball into me. I’ve got to make the right play, make the basketball play, use my size to my advantage, seal inside, be a force in the paint … do my job.”

The Friars realize trying to contain him will be a big job. Therefore, 6-10, 260-pound freshman Nate Watson is expected to make just his ninth start.

“They’re definitely a big team,” Watson said. “They get a lot of points off the second shots. (We’ve) got to come under and box out, be big in there and try to stop them.”

Of course, the Friars have some advantages of their own.

They’re on a roll after reaching the finals of the Big East Tournament last week. They beat No. 1 seed Xavier in the semifinals and then lost in overtime to No. 1 seed Villanova in the final.

“We’re a lot more confident,” said guard Alpha Diallo, who averages 13 points. “Playing two No. 1 sets back to back and taking them into overtime was definitely a confident boost. We’re happy to be here and we feel like we can put our foot down and make an imprint in this tournament.”

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The Friars went on a roll late in the season advancing all the way to the Big East Tournament title game before falling to No. 1 seed Villanova.


Providence is a veteran team that has appeared in the NCAA Tournament the last five seasons. Among those veterans is senior guard Kyron Cartwright, who averages 11.8 points and has dished out 187 assists. He figures to have an edge against A&M freshman TJ Starks, who has just 12 career starts.

Starks, though, maintained that he won’t be intimidated.

“I’m ready to compete,” he said. “We’re here for a reason just like how they’re here. I feel like I’ve prepared pretty well.  I know (Cartwright) is a great player. He’s made great play offensively and defensively. I think I’ve prepared myself well through the season to come ready to play and give them a challenge.”

Starks may have been sufficiently prepared for Cartwright by facing Alabama’s Collin Sexton the last two games. He scored 23 points on Sexton in a 71-70 loss in the SEC Tournament.

But Starks acknowledged scoring won’t be his priority.

“I’ll make sure I get Tyler and Rob the ball early as well as late,” he said. “I’ve got to just to keep feeding them because I know they can dominate in the post. If we feed them the ball we’ve got a good chance of winning.”
 

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Texas A&M looks to exploit size advantage inside against the Friars

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