Texas A&M guard Aaron Cash has one job on the Aggie men’s basketball team: rebounding. His niche is so specific that head coach Buzz Williams said Cash takes the least amount of shots in practice as the transfer from Grayson focuses on his main role.
Cash’s skills on the boards were exactly what the Aggies needed to jumpstart their 73-39 victory over Houston Baptist on Wednesday at Reed Arena. He had his first double-double at A&M by scoring 12 points and pulling down a team-high 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive boards.
“I’m a ‘go get it’ [rebounder],” Cash said. “That’s what we preach about in practice. I just take heed into that and use that as my motivation.”
His performance was exactly what Williams wanted.
“When you see that sort of effort with a singular purpose of when the ball is in the air, I’m acting as if it’s a loose ball and I have to get it ... I think people are watching from the bench, and they realize they’re on the bench because they’re supposed to be doing that,” Williams said. “I think there’s a cumulative effect to how hard he played and how purposeful he was chasing the ball.”
Cash’ minutes have steadily rose this season after he didn’t play in the Aggies’ season opener. On Sunday in A&M’s 86-65 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Cash had two points and three rebounds in a season-high 10 minutes. He played 16 minutes Wednesday, and his performance on the boards proved vital as A&M’s top rebounder Henry Coleman III tries to find his form after kicking off the year with 27 points and seven rebounds in the Aggies’ 64-46 victory over North Florida.
Williams said Coleman and some of his teammates struggled to get in good rebounding position early Wednesday. Cash first entered for the Aggies (4-0) with seven minutes gone in the first half, and he had four points, three rebounds and two steals in his first four minutes of action. That effort sparked A&M on an 8-0 run for an 18-10 lead.
After starting 0 for 6 from 3-point range, the Aggies’ outside shooters found their touch late in the first half, beginning with guard Tyrece Radford. Sixth-year senior guard Quenton Jackson followed with a shot from outside and finished the half with nine points on three treys.
Both Radford and Jackson finished with a team-high 13 points. Radford, who is known to the team as “Boots,” added six rebounds. The nickname comes from Williams’ belief that he is as tough as boot leather.
“I thought it was the best he’s played today,” Williams said. “I don’t think that he’s been bad through the first three games, but I don’t think he’s been ‘Boots.’ I thought there were gliders — flashes — of him today.”
A&M held the Huskies (1-2) scoreless for the first nine minutes of the second half, turning a 35-21 halftime lead into a 57-21 advantage. Marcus Williams punctuated the 22-0 run with a dunk, one of six during the stretch and nine in the game. Jackson had a pair of dunks midway through the second half that stole the show, one on an alley-oop pass and the other a high-flying windmill slam.
As Cash’ defense turned into offense, he too found himself in position to throw down several dunks. After two disappointing misses, he made the most of three more attempts.
“I’m not going to lie: [Jackson] had some impressive dunks,” Radford said when asked who had the best slams of the game. “I would totally go with him, but [Cash] surprised me, so I think I’ll go with Cash.”
The Aggies held the Huskies to 18 points in the second half, 11 of which came in the final four minutes. In total, the Huskies’ 39 points are the lowest total by an A&M opponent since Feb. 14, 2012, when the Aggies beat Texas Tech 47-38.
“I thought we were playing at a feverish pitch in regards to what we want to be like,” Williams said of the defensive effort.
A&M will play its first games of the season away from Reed Arena next week in the Maui Invitational at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. The Aggies will open the tournament against Wisconsin at 1 p.m. Monday then face either Butler or Houston on Tuesday with a final game Wednesday before returning to College Station.