The Texas A&M and Prairie View A&M will both, in a sense, be coming home from long journeys when they meet on Saturday afternoon in College Station, Texas.
No. 7 Texas A&M (7-1) has played in Germany, Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Phoenix already this season along with three contests in their Reed Arena home.
On Tuesday, Arizona handed the Aggies their first loss 67-64 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena. Although it was technically a neutral site, the Wildcats were in their backyard in Phoenix compared to Texas A&M.
“It’ll be good to be home,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said immediately following the loss at Arizona. “We survived traveling all over the road and to play well and give ourselves a chance tonight, I’m proud of that fact. But I thought we didn’t do enough things in the second half defensively.”
The Aggies were playing just down the street in Arizona relative to Prairie View A&M’s recent road trip.
The Panthers (2-6) are currently on a three-game losing streak after losing at UC Santa Barbara in late November, then at New Mexico State and at Hawaii already this week.
Panthers head coach Byron Smith knows his team will have its hands full against Texas A&M.
“I believe they are an Elite Eight maybe even a Final Four team with what they have,” said Smith of the Aggies, according to the Prairie View A&M website. “The thing about those guys is they have pros all over the floor, and they play so hard, and that’s kind of rare. A lot of times when you have a lot of talent, you tend to pick and choose the spots when you play hard or when you have to. Those guys play hard from the jump, from the opening tip to the final horn.”
While Prairie View A&M’s challenge gets tougher against the Aggies, at least the Panthers don’t have to travel very far for this one. The Prairie View A&M and Texas A&M campuses are just 50 miles apart.
Texas A&M leads the series against Prairie View A&M 12-0, including a win in their most recent meeting when the Aggies claimed a 75-65 victory on Nov. 19, 2013.
Texas A&M’s size will likely be difficult for Prairie View A&M to defend. The Panthers have just one player, 6-foot-9 forward J.D. Wallace, who has played significant minutes and is taller than 6-8. The Aggies’ probable starters include 6-9 forward D.J. Hogg, 6-10 forward Robert Williams and 6-10 center Tyler Davis.
Williams was suspended for the first two games of the season, but has found his stride since then as he is averaging 8.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. He came off the bench in his season debut against Oklahoma State last month and scored 11 points with 11 rebounds and two blocks. Since then, he has settled into the starting lineup.
Texas A&M will be starting a four-game home stand, with games against Savannah State, Northern Kentucky and Buffalo following the Prairie View A&M contest. The Aggies will then travel to open Southeastern Conference play at Alabama on Dec. 30.
Although the schedule has caused the Aggies to log a huge number of miles already this season, it might have sharpened Texas A&M for the road to come.
“We have a great group of guys and just being on the road a lot has been good for us,” Davis said. “We learned a lot of lessons and we had some challenging games.”
Prairie View A&M will hit the road again next week following the close-to-home game versus the Aggies.
The Panthers travel to Tulsa, Ohio and New Mexico along with a game at nearby Houston in the next two weeks. Prairie View A&M begins SWAC play at home against Alcorn State on Jan. 1.
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