College Station, Texas – Jeff Campbell walked onto the court inside the cavernous Reed Arena, took a look around at all the seats and couldn’t help but be in awe Tuesday night.
So this is Texas A&M University, the St. Mary’s University guard thought.
“When I first got out there, it was different,” Campbell said. “Just seeing all the stands, being on center stage. It was different, but I liked it.”
That much was clear when Campbell (Jr., Allen, Texas) drained a quick 3-pointer that gave the Rattlers a brief lead early on. But the Aggies expectedly fought back, building a sizeable first-half lead en route to beating the Rattlers 70-53 in an exhibition game before 5,621 fans.
“The first part was just getting the butterflies out,” point guard Josh Orta (So., San Antonio) said.
After seeing the best the Aggies had to offer, the Rattlers began to realize something: They could hang with the Aggies.The Rattlers trailed by as many as 27 early, but bounced back to outscore Texas A&M 37-35 in the second half.
Campbell led the way with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting, while Orta added eight points, five assists and four rebounds.
Kevin Kotzur (So., La Vernia, Texas) also scored nine to go along with eight boards.
“As the game progressed, we just got into our offense,” Campbell said. “I guess we weren’t as nervous. We realized we could play with them. The most exciting thing was when we started playing defense and we held them to a couple of baskets here and there.”
The Rattlers dominated the glass, outrebounding the Aggies 39-26, including hauling in 16 offensive boards. But St. Mary’s struggled with its shot in the early going, opening up 7-for-25 from the floor in the first half.
Conversely, A&M started out 12 for 26.
Though some of the Rattlers’ early looks didn’t fall, they showed plenty of flashes as they began to settle down.
Orta got a rebound and went coast-to-coast for a layup, cutting St. Mary’s deficit to 23-9 with about 10 minutes left in the first half. Later on, Keith Hartle (So., San Antonio) took over the point and slashed through the lane for a layup that left the Rattlers trailing 33-13.
Lamb Autrey (Jr., Cibolo, Texas) had similar success on a play late in the game, splitting the defense before passing back to Ray Marshall (Jr., El Paso, Texas), who hit a wide-open jumper from the elbow to make it 65-49 with 2:40 left.
“If we can start off like we ended up playing, we’ll be pretty good,” Orta said.
Next up for the Rattlers is their regular-season opener, facing the University of Central Missouri in the High Desert Classic at 5 p.m. on Fri., Nov. 12 in Las Vegas.