Baris Ulker goes up for a shot against St. Thomas in the Aggies' season-opener.-Courtesy photo 

Oct 31, 2018

Panhandle State Communications

Men’s Basketball Splits 1-1 at McDonald’s Classic

Plainview, Texas—The Panhandle State men’s basketball team opened their season on the road this week, competing in the McDonald’s Classic hosted by Wayland Baptist Oct. 29-30. The Aggies battled through a tough game one loss to St. Thomas 91-84, but came back to notch their first win of the season in game two against Arlington Baptist 87-65.

Junior Jaedon Whitfield picked up right where he left off last season, posting a big double-double performance on Monday. Whitfield led the game in both rebounds and scoring with 16 boards and 30 points. Head Coach Aaron Coombs recounted, “Jaedon [Whitfield] was an absolute monster; they couldn’t guard him.” Transfers Alan Hodge and Breiman Alexander each achieved double-digit scoring marks, totaling 23 and 21 points respectively against the Celts. Alexander landed 15 points from three-point range, and Hodge contributed with six rebounds and three assists.

Despite the loss, Coombs saw promise and character arise out of the adversity stating, “Monday night was unfortunate. We didn’t start very well; we were sluggish and I was not happy with our pace and how we were playing.”

Down by as much as 17 points in the first half, the Aggies cut the deficit to nine points (47-38) at the break. Coombs shared, “I told the guys that we were getting in our own way, and that it came down to speed and ball movement, and that was on us.” The team responded well in after halftime, narrowing the gap to one point (64-63) at the 10:19 mark. “I knew we would have a chance if we played our kind of basketball, and I was extremely pleased with character we showed by making a run in the second half.”

Whitfield swung the team’s first lead (70-69) with two-points in the paint, and echoed for another two on a STU turnover. Hodge then landed two in a row to give the Aggies a seven-point advantage with under six minutes left in the game. St. Thomas edged back and reclaimed the lead after sinking back-to-back threes; they went on to add eight points from the line and two from the paint to earn the win.

In Tuesday’s outing, senior guard Breiman Alexander led the team in scoring, contributing a game-high of 23 points and knocking down six shots from beyond the arc. Alan Hodge and Turkish forward Baris Ulker combined for 31 points; Ulker earned a double-double on 14 points and a game-high of 13 rebounds. He also brought down two blocks and had two steals in the game. As Coombs noted lacking in their first performance, the Aggies showed an increase in ball movement against ABU, totaling 20 assists to the Patriots’ nine. Sophomore Thomas Ellis also offered five assists and posted seven rebounds for the Aggies.

Coach Coombs made note of his newcomers, “Baris [Ulker] had a very good game on Tuesday with a big double-double; he shot well and gave us a presence inside.” He added, “Alan Hodge and Breiman Alexander did what I recruited them for and really defended well, especially in the second half.”

The head coach commented, “Our theme was to defend and our defense was very good.” Panhandle State excelled at the boards 42-30 on Tuesday and held their opponents to 26.3 percent shooting from three-point range. While they owned a healthy13-point lead at halftime (33-20), Coombs felt the team’s first-half shooting was sub-par stating, “We just couldn’t make anything; we got wide-open shots that wouldn’t go in. Thankfully, I saw a big difference in our second-half shooting.” The Aggies saw over a 30 percent increase in shooting between the first (29.2) and second (65.6) periods.

With a 1-1 record to start his inaugural season as a head coach, Coombs offered, “As a coach I am very proud. I’m so happy to get the win; it’s truly a tribute to my guys because they are the ones out there playing the game.” He continued, “I was also able to recognize some things that I need to work on as a coach, like getting us to learn how to better control the game. When we’re up by seven with five minutes left, we don’t need to play like we’re down by 16.”

The Panhandle State men’s basketball team is set to host their home-opener next week with a 6 p.m. matchup on Tuesday, Nov. 6 against Union College at Anchor D Arena. The Aggies enjoy a four-game home stretch including games on Nov. 12-Calvary University, Nov. 13-Barclay College and Nov. 20-Our Lady of the Lake University. All home games will offer free live stats and video streaming with links available online at

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