Texas AM will try to end a four-game losing streak Saturday, when the Aggies travel to No. 24 Tennessee to take on the Volunteers, who have bounced back from a bad start in SEC play with consecutive conference wins.
Texas AM has been missing key players for a month, but is starting to get healthy. Starting shooting guard Admon Gilder played 35 minutes in his return to the lineup in a 74-73 loss at Kentucky on Tuesday. D.J. Hogg has returned from a three-game suspension, and Robert Williams is trying to get his conditioning back after missing time with the flu.
"It's only going to get better," Texas AM coach Billy Kennedy told reporters after the loss to Kentucky. "I thought we got better today.
"We're still short-handed. Still don't have Duane Wilson back. Hope to have him back against Tennessee. He'll add some perimeter experience at the point guard and another guy who can make a three."
The Aggies (11-5, 0-4 SEC) had good looks at go-ahead baskets in the final seconds against Kentucky, but couldn't connect and remained winless in conference play.
Tennessee opened SEC play with losses to Arkansas and Auburn. After having their effort questioned by coach Rick Barnes, the Vols (11-4, 2-2 SEC) backed up a 10-point win over Kentucky with a comeback victory at Vanderbilt on Tuesday. Forward Grant Williams exploded for a career-high 37 points, helping the Volunteers erase a double-digit halftime deficit and pull away in the second half.
Grant Williams dominated in the paint and around the basket, occasionally stepping outside to show off an improved midrange game. Vanderbilt threw constant double teams at him from different areas of the floor. Williams was ready for it all.
"He's good," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said of his sophomore star after the win over Vanderbilt. "He's really good down there when he gets it deep and he goes quick. We spent a lot of time expecting double-teams not just on Grant but on Admiral (Schofield). ... He's only going to continue to get double-teamed."
Schofield added 22 points and nine rebounds for the Vols, who scored 57 points in the second half to take down Vanderbilt.
Barnes was happy with the comeback win, but said he remains concerned about his team's consistency.
"We can't be a two-man team," Barnes said. "It's consistency what we're searching for.
And even though we found a way to come back and get this one, we got to get more consistent overall."
For AM, Robert Williams, an NBA prospect, got off to a sluggish start against Kentucky, but finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. He missed the previous game, a loss to LSU, and sat out several practices last week.
"He's got to string some practices together and get his conditioning back to where it needs to be," Kennedy said of Williams.
Tennessee won last season's only meeting with the Aggies 73-63.