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January 23, 2006

An Aggie weekend

A couple of big wins, a senior redeeming himself as he makes way to the biggest day of his life to this point and an Aggie elevating his game on the biggest stage of his career were all in store for A&M fans this past weekend.

Heading into the weekend it didn't look nearly as bright, but Aggies the world over can rejoice in the fact that A&M was put in the spotlight this weekend.

Starting with current A&M teams, both the men's and women's basketball programs had key wins on their journey through the Big 12 conference.

The men earned their first road victory, and ended a three-game losing skid, with an 86-81 overtime victory over Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum - thought of as one of the toughest places to play in the nation.

In A&M's previous three losses, by a combined seven points, Aggie head coach Billy Gillispie has been looking for some extra offensive umph from someone not named Law or Jones.

Gillispie found it in junior college transfer Antanas Kavaliauskas who had his best day in an Aggie uniform shooting 70-percent from the field goal and scoring 15 points.

Freshman guard Josh Carter poured in 11 to go along with Acie Law and Joseph Jones who both had 17. It was only the fourth time this season A&M has had four players in double figures - the first time since A&M's 73-61 win over Northwestern State on Dec. 31.

But it sophomore guard Kenneth White that stole the show. Coming into the game with under a minute to go for the first time, White hit the game-tying 3-pointer and then hit his only other shot, another 3-pointer, in overtime that took the life out of Iowa State and the Hilton crowd.

Later that night, the women and head coach Gary Blair earned a big win over Missouri, 72-52. The Tigers were on the cusp of entering the top 25 before the Aggies blow them out by 20.

Now A&M finds itself on that cusp, they were receiving votes in last week's poll.

Reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year Morenike Atunrase paced the Aggies with 15 points as they improved to 4-2 in conference and a tie for second place. If you haven't noticed, that is ahead of defending national champion Baylor who is at 3-3.

And if the hardwood victories weren't enough, A&M senior quarterback Reggie McNeal absolutely owned the 81st Annual East-West Shrine Game throwing for 211 yards on nine-of-11 passing and two touchdowns.

After McNeal led the West to a 14-7 lead, he was benched for UCLA quarterback Drew Olsen, but with the West down 31-21 in the fourth quarterback, A&M head coach Dennis Franchione, head coach for the West, inserted McNeal back into the game.

McNeal engineered the last two scoring drives to earn the 35-31 win and game MVP.

It's pretty safe to say that McNeal, with his performance in the game and also in practice during the week, improved his standing greatly with NFL coaches and scouts.

On Sunday all eyes turned to the NFL and the conference championship games and Seattle defensive tackle Rocky Bernard carried the Aggie flag well as he bullied through the Carolina offensive line for two sacks, helping the Seahawks earn their ticket to the Super Bowl.

All in all, it was a great weekend to be an Aggie.


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