Gary Blair discusses Texas A&M's struggles against the zone defense

Photo by Ray Floriani.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair discusses his team's persistent problem this season: figuring out how to hold on to the ball against a zone defense.

NEW YORK CITY - He spoke in general terms.

Saying how his kids did not know basketball history and how he was teaching them while raising their on court IQ. He lamented on how they did not know who Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett or Dave DeBusschere was - if it's not in Slam Magazine or on TNT they just don't know or haven't heard of it.

He went on to say people know who Carmelo Anthony is but cannot name four starters on the Indiana Pacers, a true team in the every sense of the word.

Finally, Gary Blair returned to the topic at hand and spoke in specifics.

"In 160 straight minutes we have not seen a man-to-man defense," Blair said. "Until we learn to play against a zone..."

Blair's Texas A&M team was just defeated 72-70 by St. John's in the Maggie Dixon Classic just prior to Christmas. Blair loves coming to New York and Madison Square Garden but was exiting the World's Most Famous arena with a setback in the won-lost column and serious concerns.

"We are just trying to figure how we can be competitive in the SEC," he admitted. "The mistakes (turnovers) we are making against the zone defense - 20 in the last game, 16 in this - it's just poor decisions. Every time we fought back in it we made a dumb foul, couldn't get a call we wanted or something like that."

Blair's last comment was not meant to call out the officiating. He and his team are self examining, trying to find ways to get better. Karla Gilbert, the 6-foot-5 post player scored 15 for the Aggies. She couldn't offset the subpar afternoon by Courtney Walker who was closely defended into 8 points on 2 of 11 shooting. Shooting slumps happen but Blair would like better, specifically more aggressive, play from Gilbert whom the coach calls "just too nice a person at times."

Texas A&M used a zone of their own, then changed to man late to force turnovers. They had opportunities but those aforementioned mistakes, turnovers and fouls set them back.

As they exited Madison square Garden with a 7-4 record on an unseasonably balmy near 70 degree day, Blair and his team were concerned not with the final minutes or seconds that proved their undoing. Rather, they are looking at the whole picture. They did bounce back with an easy win over Louisiana Tech six days later. With conference play on the horizon, there are those details, as Blair pointed out, needing to be addressed.

Given the last few games, unless they figure out how to handle it, one is certain they will see a lot more zone defenses. And in the process, face other challenges as the season progresses.

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