March 3, 2009

Aggies used to playing under pressure

It's started to become common practice at Texas A&M for the Aggies to need a late run in the Big 12 conference to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. It's becoming so common that it may turn into a new tradition in Aggieland. Of A&M's three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, the 2007 team was the only Aggies squad that didn't need a late season push.

In 2006, the Aggies used a seven-game win streak after falling to 3-6 in conference play. In 2008, the Aggies looked well on their way with a 6-3 record in the Big 12 before dropping three straight. The Aggies traded wins with losses the rest of the way before needing a run in the Big 12 tournament, which they got with wins over Iowa State and Kansas State before narrowly falling to eventual national champion Kansas in the Big 12 semifinals.

This season, the Aggies need a combination of both streaking in the regular season and a good showing in the Big 12 tournament to assure themselves of an NCAA berth, and so far things are going to plan.

"Guys have a sense of desperation and know where we want to be in order to get there, and we have to win games and play harder," said A&M senior Josh Carter, who is trying to become the first Aggie in history to play in four NCAA tournaments. "So far we've been doing what we've needed to do and I hope we just continue to do it."

Much like last season, the Aggies are improving down the stretch. In the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments last year, A&M was a completely different team than the one that had two three-game losing streaks in conference play.

That improvement is once again taking place with the slow starts that plagued A&M for most of the season absent with the exception of the game at Nebraska, but the Aggies were able to come back and win in Lincoln. Scoring draughts that seemed to go on forever haven't occurred as frequently with the increased production from Carter, Derrick Roland and others including a solid foursome off the bench.

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