It took just two games for Texas A&M to achieve something that hadn’t happened to the Aggies in more than five years.
Now it will take three victories to claim a tournament championship.
Freshly ranked at No. 24, Texas A&M plays Murray State on Thursday afternoon on the opening day of the Myrtle Beach Invitational in Conway, S.C.
“It was encouraging,” Aggies coach Buzz Williams said. “I think the togetherness of our group is evident. I think they’re playing with great synergy through two games.”
Texas A&M (2-0) last held a Top 25 ranking in January 2017. Blowout victories against Louisiana-Monroe and Abilene Christian pushed the Aggies into this week’s poll.
Wade Taylor IV has averaged 19.5 points in the first two games for the Aggies. Junior Henry Coleman III, a transfer from Duke, is in his second season with the Aggies and continuing to make an impact. He has recorded six career double-doubles.
“We’re playing a physical, physical, tough basketball team,” said Steve Prohm, who’s in his first season in his second stint as Murray State’s coach. “We better be ready to roll.”
Guard Tyrece Radford, formerly of Virginia Tech, is another player off to a solid start.
“We’re much more succinct,” Williams said. “You look at those guys who are going into Year 2 (in our program). Everybody is going to be at different points.”
Williams said cutting down on turnovers and fouls will be important for the Aggies.
Murray State (1-1) opened the season with a loss at Saint Louis and then recovered by drubbing visiting Lindsey Wilson 90-53 on Saturday.
The most-recent game have free-flowing moments for the Racers. Those types of games aren’t likely to develop against other opponents.
“We’re going to have to be tougher in the halfcourt,” Prohm said.
Murray State spent time in the Top 25 rankings itself last season on the way to an NCAA Tournament bid but lost head coach Matt McMahon to LSU, and several transfers followed him from Western Kentucky.
Outside of NCAA Tournament play, Murray State is facing a ranked team for the first time since November 2019. The Racers have dropped five consecutive clashes with Top 25 teams, last knocking off a ranked team in the regular season 11 seasons ago.
“It’s going to be a work in progress,” Prohm said. “There are some things we know we have to work on and continue to stress.”
Texas A&M put five players in double figures in its first game and four players with 10 or more points in its second game.
“We’ve got to do a good job defensively,” Prohm said. “That starts in transition.”
Prohm has directed a team to a tournament championship in the building where the invitational will be contested. He was Iowa State’s coach when his team won the 2017 Puerto Rico Tipoff, which was moved to Coastal Carolina’s campus because of Hurricane Maria.
Murray State last won an in-season tournament in 2011 in the Great Alaska Shootout. That was Prohm’s first season as coach in his first go-around with the Racers.
The only previous meeting between Murray State and Texas A&M came with the Racers winning 49-46 in December 1946.
Colorado, which scored a win over No. 11 Tennessee last week, and Massachusetts face off and are the possible opponents for Murray State and Texas A&M in either the semifinal round or consolation matchup on Friday.
–Field Level Media