College Basketball Nation: 100319 utahst-texasam

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Khris Middleton has chosen a good time to blossom.

The Texas A&M freshman scored a career-high 19 points in the Aggies 69-53 win over Utah State in the first round of the South Regional, hitting 5-of-6 from 3-point range.

[+] EnlargeKhris Middleton
AP Photo/Rajah BoseTexas A&M's Khris Middleton scored a career-high 19 points against Utah State.
But Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon wasn't terribly surprised. Middleton has seemed to find himself ever since the calendar turned into March.

"Khris got hot," Turgeon said. "Khris is very capable."

In the four games before the tournament, Middleton made 8 of 15 3-point attempts. In the final three games before the tournament, he averaged 15.3 points.

So the seven points per game he averaged this season, or the 29 percent 3-point percentage that sits beside his name, may not be terribly relevant for a player who suddenly offers an offensively challenged team another potent option other than Donald Sloan.

Middleton said that, despite appearances, he was nervous before the game.

"Once we started to play, I started to relax," he said. "I think that helped me knock down the threes."

Middleton, who moved into the starting lineup when Derrick Roland broke his leg against Washington in late December, also showed poise when he seemed to exit the zone. He nailed his first five 3-pointers, but fired an air ball on No. 6. That might have caused some freshmen to lose their focus, but Middleton opted to go into the paint on the Aggies next possession and sink a short, smooth jumper.

It's not just Middleton, however, who is coming around. A&M's MO entering the tournament was a good defensive team that couldn't consistently make shots. However, the Aggies shot 48 percent from the field in their last four games before the tournament. They shot 49 percent from the field vs. Utah State.

That's almost an unbeatable number.

Unbeatable?

They are 30-0 under Turgeon when they shoot at least 50 percent from the field.

Final: Texas A&M 69, Utah State 53

March, 19, 2010
3/19/10
7:09
PM ET
SPOKANE, Wash. -- Sometimes the pregame perception turns out to be flat wrong.

Texas A&M were expert marksmen against Utah State, winning the battle of Aggies, 69-53, by hitting 50 of its shots from the field.

Meanwhile, Utah State couldn't connect on anything. Go figure.

Some thoughts:
  • The player of the game was Texas A&M freshman Khris Middleton, who scored a career-high 19 points, connected on five of six from 3-point range. During the regular season, Middleton averaged seven points per game and connected on just 27 percent of his 3-point attempts.
  • Meanwhile, Utah State was 5 of 21 from 3-point range and shot 36 percent from the field. During the regular season, the sharpshooting Aggies had a 49 percent field goal percentage, which ranked eighth in the nation, and hit their treys at a 42 percent clip.
  • Utah State point guard Jared Quayle, the engine of the offense, had a great season, but he had a terrible game. He scored just nine points on 4 of 17 shooting with one assist.
  • With Middleton taking a starring role, A&M's leading scorer Donald Sloan (18.2 ppg), a first-team All-Big 12 pick, took on a supporting role, only scoring 10 points.
SPOKANE, Wash. -- Texas A&M has to be happy with that first half, leading Utah State 42-29 at the break. The Aggies of A&M are in sync on both ends, while the Aggies of Utah State seem physically overwhelmed.

Some thoughts:

  • Texas A&M, a team that doesn't shoot well, is 6 of 12 from 3-point range.
  • Most of that came from the player of the half, freshman Khris Middleton. He hit all four of his 3-point attempts and leads all scorers with 14 points. He averaged seven points per game this season.
  • Utah State is 3 of 6 from 3-point range and is shooting 40.6 percent from the field, well below their 49 percent field goal percentage this season.
  • A&M is owning the boards. It has out-rebounded Utah State 22-11.
  • Utah State is supposed to have the precision passing offense, but it only had five assists in the first half.
  • No player has more than two fouls.

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