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