For years, the annual Texas versus Texas A&M Thanksgiving football game would divide households across the state and give one school bragging rights for the following year until the next matchup.
Since Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012, the Aggies and Longhorns have rarely met in sporting events outside of the occasional softball game. On Sunday, the teams will renew their rivalry on the basketball court, facing off in the Lone Star Showdown in Fort Worth.
The teams are coming into the game in much different situations. The Aggies have lost three games in a row to teams such as Temple and Fairfield in the Orlando Invitational. The Longhorns have started the season 7-1 and beat UAB after a career performance from redshirt sophomore guard Andrew Jones.
“The floodgates are officially open,” Jones said. “Once everybody gets that rhythm and starts really gelling and playing together it’s going to be fun to watch.”
Jones drained six 3-point shots and collected a career-high twenty points in the matchup against the Blazers. Sophomore guard Courtney Ramey also chipped in with thirteen points of his own. The team has been playing cohesively of late, which bodes well for the game against A&M.
“Every team is capable of beating anybody, and we just got to have the maturity and the level of aggression to go out there and attack any team or midmajor,” Jones said. “As long as we’re consistent with our attack and our mindset, we can compete and play with anybody.”
The Longhorns are getting help from all over the roster. Junior forward Jericho Sims has been a consistent force in the paint, while junior guard Matt Coleman has been a leader on the court at the point guard position. Freshman forward Kai Jones also chipped in defensively against UAB with three blocks and three rebounds.
Every player has been unselfish within their roles this season. Whether a player is asked to focus on shutting down an opposing player or to make sure the ball is finding the open man, the athletes on the team have bought into a team-first philosophy.
“I think the biggest area for growth for us is guys understanding that having an obsession with what goes into winning has to supersede how the game is going for you,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “That means going against human nature a little bit, but that’s what the best teams do.”
As well as the team has done to start the season, they have only beaten two nonmidmajors and their one loss came from Georgetown. The matchup against A&M will be another big test for this young squad early in the season.
While this team has yet to play many games against teams in big conferences, the consistently clutch nature of the playmakers on the team should carry over against tougher competition.
“I think our guys are making winning plays at critical times,” Smart said. “We have to continue to get better. Obviously playing A&M will be a heck of a matchup.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Dickies Arena.