Longhorns prepare to rekindle A&M rivalry in Battle 4 Atlantis

Akshay Mirchandani

Men’s basketball head coach Shaka Smart hasn’t experienced the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry firsthand. But he didn’t miss the memo.

“I know it means a ton to the fans,” Smart said. “I know it’s important to the fans on both sides.”

No one on Texas’ roster has ever played against the Aggies. The last time the two teams met on the hardwood was Feb. 6, 2012 in College Station — a 70-68 Texas win. A year later, A&M moved to the SEC and Texas’ current senior class became freshmen.

On Wednesday, Smart and the seniors will add their own chapter to the rivalry in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Paradise Island, Bahamas.  

The game tips off at 6 p.m. on the opening day of the three-day tournament.

“We’re going to prepare for it like another game, but we know the tradition of this rivalry,” senior forward Connor Lammert said. “It’s very important for the University of Texas.”

The 4-0 Aggies checked in at No. 25 in the latest AP poll and boast the best offense in the SEC — scoring 93.5 points per game. The Longhorns are A&M’s first Power Five conference opponent.

“Texas A&M has got a terrific team,” Smart said. “I think they’re a top-25 caliber team, and they’re very dynamic with their attack. They’ve got a lot of older guys. They’ve got a really good freshman class. So it’ll be a really good challenge for us.”

The Longhorns are coming off a 67-56 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Senior guard Javan Felix, who had 12 points in the win, said Texas knows where it needs to improve.  

“We can’t turn the ball over like we did [Saturday],” Felix said after the game. “I think we turned the ball over 18 times. That’s too many, and that’s something that we have to correct along with a lot of other things.”

No. 10 Gonzaga, No. 18 Connecticut, Charlotte, Syracuse, Michigan and Washington will also compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Texas lost to Washington, 77-71, in its season opener in Shanghai.

If the Longhorns beat A&M, they play the winner of Gonzaga vs. Washington on Thanksgiving. If Texas loses, it instead plays the loser of Gonzaga vs.
Washington. The championship, third-place, fifth-place and seventh-place games will be on Friday.

“We’re going to play three games in three days,” Smart said. “It really gives us a great opportunity to grow.”

But first, Texas looks to top its rival.

“We have a chance to make a really big statement, we have a chance to show everyone what Texas is about, and it just so happens that Texas A&M is our first game,” Felix said. “We’re going to prepare for them like any other opponent. We’re going to prepare for them hard and just be ready to play.”