Buzz Williams
French & Nebo
Scott Cross
Texas A&M Basketball

Unlikely hero Mark French provides punch Aggies need in 56-52 victory

November 20, 2019
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Struggling to score and trailing with less than five minutes remaining, Texas A&M desperately needed to add some punch to its offense.

Walk-on guard Mark French, a surprise starter, quite literally provided it.

French followed a game-tying three-pointer by punching a defensive rebound to Savion Flagg for a transition dunk. Those two baskets started a decisive 12-0 run, which lifted Texas A&M to a 56-52 college basketball victory over Troy on Wednesday night Reed Arena.

The Aggies (3-1), who trailed by nine points early in the second half, converted 12 of 16 free throws in the final 3:39 to hold off the stubborn Trojans (1-4).

Josh Nebo posted a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. He also blocked five shots to lead the way. Jay Jay Chandler also had 10 points. Their performances were not too surprising.

Conversely, French’s 12-point showing was shocking. The 5-foot-8 senior had scored 18 points in his career and had not scored this season.

Rey Romo, TexAgs
A&M guard Andre Gordon did not play Wednesday as he was out with a foot injury sustained in practice.

Yet, he was thrust into the starting lineup because freshman point guard Andre Gordon sustained a foot injury in practice on Monday, had X-rays on Tuesday and was in a walking boot during the game.

Gordon will see a doctor again on Monday to determine the next steps.

“From what I know, it’s not good,” A&M coach Buzz  Williams said.

French indicated he did not know he would be in the starting lineup until about five minutes before tip-off.

“Coach is kind vague with it,” French said. “You’ve just got to go and be productive. That’s what I tried to do.”

Williams said he made the decision based on advice he recalled from coach Jerry Wainwright, a mentor and former colleague at Marquette.

“Jerry Wainwright told me any time there is something unexpected that happens, make as few changes as possible to address the unexpected happening,” Williams said. “Dre had been running the point for us. I thought allowing French to start would be the least amount of change with Dre not being available.”

At first, the results of starting a backup guard seemed predictable as the Aggies struggled mightily in the first half.

A&M committed eight turnovers and shot just 19.2 percent (5 of 26) to fall behind 25-17 at halftime. The Aggies did not go to the locker room at halftime.

Rather, Williams addressed them at the baseline in front of the A&M bench. He didn’t want to use time walking through the hallways that could be used instructing his players.

“I didn’t do it to embarrass them,” Williams said. “I felt I have so much to say, sometimes the content is overwhelming to them. I always feel rushed because of the clock.

“I didn’t do it to embarrass them. I felt I have so much to say, sometimes the content is overwhelming to them. I always feel rushed because of the clock.”
- A&M coach Buzz Williams

“The message was try really, really hard. The message was we need to get a shot attempt per possession. The message was try to get a shot attempt after rotation has been forced, so that down the stretch of the game, we could score a bunch of points at the free-throw line. The message was when they shoot, act like the ceiling of Reed Arena is collapsing, and the only way we can get out before the ceiling collapsing and the only way we can get out before the collapse happens is if we get the ball.”

They got the message.

The Aggies bounced back strong in the second half. They took their first lead, 32-31, on an alley-oop dunk by Nebo with 14:05 to play.

“I think A&M picked up the defensive intensity in the second half and gave us some trouble,” Troy coach Scott Cross said. “We didn’t really execute in the second half. A lot of that was A&M picking up their defense and make that tougher on us.”

However, Troy would not relent and took a 42-39 after guard Darian Adams, who led the Trojans with 20 points, scored a layup over Nebo with 5:08 to play.

Then, French connected from the top-of-the-key to forge a 42-42 tie.

Adams tried to answer with a 3-pointer, but misfired and ricocheted toward midcourt as French and a Troy player converged for the rebound.

French got there a nanosecond sooner and punched the basketball down court where Flagg claimed it and then swooped in for a thunderous dunk and a 44-42 lead with 4:13 remaining.

Rey Romo, TexAgs
French’s clutch play late in the game lifted the Aggies over the pesky Trojans.

“I saw Sav out of the corner of my eye,” French said. “No one was back, so I just kind of punched it up over the (Troy) guy. Obviously, (Flagg) took it and did what he does best … threw it down.”

Flagg’s dunk was A&M’s last field goal of the game. But the Aggies compensated with clutch free-throw shooting in the last four minutes to extend the lead to 51-42.

Still, Troy wouldn’t quit. Adams and forward Atakan Sahinkaya hit 3-pointer in the final minute to bring the Trojans within 53-50.

Jay Jay Chandler hit two free throws with 10.2 seconds showing, and Wendell Mitchell added another to secure a victory that Williams almost did not want.

Cross was Williams’ first recruit years ago when Williams was an assistant coach at Texas-Arlington. They’d remained close ever since.

His voice cracking with emotion, Williams indicated he’d rather have canceled the game.

“In hindsight,” Williams said, “I wish I could have asked (former athletic director, Scott Woodward) or (athletic director) Ross Bjork to allow me personally to pay the buy-out.”

Discussion from...

Unlikely hero Mark French provides punch Aggies need in 56-52 victory

3,352 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 15 days ago by AgFlags74
Farmer @ Johnsongrass, TX
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Wow!

Only listened to Coach Williams. Thanks TexAgs for posting this.

Awesome press conference/interview.

Symbolism and meaningful/thoughtful words throughout. Minute 7 to minute 8 - shares same game philosophy as Coach Fisher, ball control (and more shared similar philosophy). Look at that symbol on Coach William's shirt, if Coach William's isn't Team Texas A&M then listen to this interview again.
cavscout96
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AG
For as fast as Jimbo talks, Buzz talks equally as slow.....

I like what he has to say
Papa Joe
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AG
Gig 'em!
AgFlags74
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AG
Farmer @ Johnsongrass, TX said:

Wow!

Only listened to Coach Williams. Thanks TexAgs for posting this.

Awesome press conference/interview.

Symbolism and meaningful/thoughtful words throughout. Minute 7 to minute 8 - shares same game philosophy as Coach Fisher, ball control (and more shared similar philosophy). Look at that symbol on Coach William's shirt, if Coach William's isn't Team Texas A&M then listen to this interview again.

We were at the game. Agree 100% on your "analysis" of Buzz. He is an outstanding guy and a great coach both on and off the court. Yes, watch the post-game presser. He needs a couple of years to get SEC-quality players into his system. (Sounds familiar??) But then it will be off to the playoffs every year. I haven't watched the game on replay yet. Don't know if TV showed it. But watching Buzz in action throughout the game was its own entertainment. He gets a workout just like his players! Lol!!
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