Add A&M's Sloan to Big 12 MVP race

Texas A&M senior Donald Sloan is leading his team like a senior should, through will and determination and, oh yeah, a lot of scoring.

The Big 12's fourth-leading scorer is averaging 18.4 points a game and the Aggies (16-6, 5-3 Big 12), who rank 11th in the conference in scoring, need every bit of it. The 6-foot-3 guard has led A&M in seven of eight conference games and six in a row. His 17 points last night, along with 17 from suprise scorer David Loubeau, sparked A&M to a comeback win at Missouri, 77-74, handing the Tigers their first home loss in 33 game.

Besides snapping Mizzou's impressive streak, the victory was significant for several reasons. It was A&M's first road win in conference and they won it by fighting back and locking down defensively. It gives them confidence that they can go into any building and pull out a win. It also reinforced their belief that they're never out of a game. Three of their five conference wins have come by four points or less.

At 5-3 in the Big 12, A&M is tied for third with Kansas State and a half-game ahead of Missouri and Baylor. The Bears come to College Station on Saturday riding a two-game win streak and playing about as well as anybody in the league. The goal is to finish in the top four in the conference standings to secure a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. Wednesday's gutsy win and another big performance by Sloan has made that possible.

When Derrick Roland broke his leg before Christmas and was lost for the season, the Aggies lost thier defensive stopper and a senior leader. Sloan, Roland's best friend going back to elementary school in the Dallas area, has picked up his game at both ends and rather quietly is putting together a whale of a season.

Where would the Aggies be without Sloan? Consider that no other player on the roster is scoring in double figures (Roland was averaging 10.5 points through 12 games). There's no doubt that without Sloan's all-around performances the Aggies' hopes of a fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth would be dashed.

Instead, they are very much alive.