Attitude can be everything throughout the course of a college basketball season.

It's easy to be positive when you are flying high, ranked No. 5 in the nation and holding just one loss to your name.

Right now, Texas A&M men's basketball coach Billy Kennedy is forced to find the bright side after his team dropped to 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play with an ugly 83-66 loss to Florida on Tuesday at Reed Arena.

"People better beat us now while we've got guys injured and making the mistakes we did, because I really believe we're going to get this team right," Kennedy said. "We've got a good group, and we've got a talented group, and we're going to learn from it, and that's the approach we're taking. Obviously, attitude matters, and I'm going to be as positive as possible, but that's there reality of it."

Three of A&M's key starters were absent from Tuesday's lineup -- guards Duane Wilson and Admon Gilder to injury and forward D.J. Hogg to the self-inflicted pain of suspension.

How do account for that absence of 50 percent of A&M's offensive production? Finding an answer would puzzle even the likes of John Wooden.

The real challenge facing Kennedy now is riding out the emotional low of a abysmal start to conference play.

With the entirety of A&M's veteran perimeter missing, the brunt of the load fell on the shoulders of freshmen Jay Jay Chandler and J.J. Caldwell. Freshman T.J. Starks figured to be in that mix as well but played only 4 minutes in favor of junior Chris Collins, who posted three points in 18 minutes.

Collins' mental outlook more than statistical performance earned him a chance to play despite entering Tuesday's matchup with an average 1.9 minutes per game.

"Attitude and character," Kennedy said of the decision to go with Collins over Starks, who is averaging 5.7 points over 15.7 minutes per game.

Hogg will return to action Saturday against LSU after serving a three-game suspension for a violation of school policy. Wilson and Gilder could also be back as early as Saturday, Kennedy said.

"We're hoping we can have them for the LSU game, but we're not 100 percent sure," Kennedy said. "Every day they've gotten a lot better, which is good news."

A little bad luck and a touch of poor decision-making helped contribute to an early hole Tuesday against Florida as the Gators built as much as a 17-point first-half lead. The Aggies never drew closer than 10 points in the second half.

While at full strength they still have the talent to be one of the best teams in the country -- maybe even a Final Four squad -- the Aggies' margin for error is slimmer now than a week ago in terms of making sure they get into the NCAA tournament. They have to bank on the veteran savvy of the three returning players to hit the floor running without any rust and minus the emotional baggage that can result from a slow start.

"I expect them to be good," Kennedy said. "They're experienced. We need to make sure they are healthy more than anything. D.J. Hogg has been practicing with us, and he's fine. I think he'll be ready to play."

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(1) comment

Nunya Bidness

What is it about pot and these athletes? All these suspensions are due to pot use. Why isn't the Eagle reporting that? If I can find that out, why can't the reporters? Stupid, selfish kids. The Eagle needs to bring this more to light, if for no other reason than to help the kids realize what a mistake it is to wantonly break the rules.

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