January 29, 2008

A&M, Texas becoming a national game in basketball

It'll be the first time that new Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon has gotten a taste of the Texas A&M-Texas rivalry. He wasn't even able to witness it at Kyle Field in November since he and the Aggies were in New York wrapping up a NIT Tip-Off championships.

Just like every season, a lot will be riding on this installment of the Lone Star Showdown at Reed Arena on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Aggies got out of a three-game losing streak by beating Oklahoma State on the road Saturday. The Longhorns are on a three-game losing streak of sorts as well as they have lost their last three games at Reed Arena.

With the nation looking in on ESPN2, this rivalry is quickly becoming one of the tops in college basketball. For Turgeon and his team, however, it's just another very important game in a rugged Big 12 conference.

"Obviously A&M's rise the last three years has made it a national game. The game at Texas last year was one of the best of the season. It was just a heck of a game and fun to watch as a fan. It's become a really big game, and I'm excited," Turgeon said. "It's a big game for us because it's the next game and our backs are against the wall, but it's a big game because it means a lot to the people around here. Our players know it and our coaches know it, and I know it's going to be an unbelievable atmosphere Wednesday night and I'm looking forward to that."

Turgeon will be facing someone he considers a friend on the court for the first time in his career as well when he stares down Texas head coach Rick Barnes. The two have traded phone calls over the year until this season when Turgeon took over in College Station.

"We're going to play a really good team and a guy I respect, Rick Barnes. I've known him for a long time and he's a great person on top of being an excellent coach. I'm just looking forward to playing in this game," Turgeon said. "I met him through one of Calipari's clinics. John Calipari does a clinic and he had Rick come out and he spoke probably eight or nine years ago. He's a big Larry Brown fan, so we've talked over the years on the road. I just kind of watch his teams and talk to him once or twice a year before I came here."

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