December 12, 2008

Roland at the top defensively despite injury

Two weeks ago in the South Padre Island Invitational, Texas A&M guard Derrick Roland went down in the loss to Tulsa and missed the following day's win over Kent State while on crutches with an injured left foot. The injury had A&M head coach Mark Turgeon visibly worried about his top defender, but x-rays in College Station the following Monday proved the injury to be a sprain and not a break.

It still wasn't sure how long it would take Roland to get back on the court, but in A&M's 67-66 win over Arizona on Friday Roland came off the bench for 24 physical minutes as he gutted out what might have been his best performance in an Aggie uniform. Roland had six points and a team-high six rebounds, but it was his mastery of Arizona forward Chase Budinger in the second half, limiting him to just three points and 1-6 from the field including a misses shot on the final play of the game to preserve A&M's comeback win.

"That was one of his best games. He made some nice plays and some nice shots early for us," Turgeon said. "He forced a couple in the second half, but he basically made the plays that D-Ro has to make for us. And he was all over (Budinger). He was in his shorts. I was proud of Derrick and Derrick just wants to win and hopefully a game like this will bring us together and let us know what we need to do."

Roland's grip on Budinger helped fuel the Aggies' 14-point comeback in the second half, and on the last play Roland rose to the challenge after Budinger had a few words for him before the play.

"It was a real big possession. We were jawing back and forth about the last shot, and I guess I got the best of him at the end. He said he was going to make his shot, but he didn't. I stepped up to the challenge," Roland said. "We were just jawing back and forth during the game. I just told him he didn't make the shot (after the play)."

But Roland wasn't always sure that he would even play in the game. After coming back to practice as a soon as the Tuesday after the trip to South Padre Island, Roland eased back into things throughout the week. On Thursday, however, Roland had his left foot stepped on, which forced him back to the training room and forced him to doubt his availability against Arizona.

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