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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Texas A&M returned to its comfort zone -- the Aggies' home court -- in easily defeating Houston 74-57 on Wednesday night before 4,850 fans.
"Being in Reed Arena helped us and our fans really helped us," said Texas A&M junior forward Jamal Jones, who led all scorers with 21 points. "We got back on the right streak."
What the 7-2 Aggies hope turns into a streak, anyway. Texas A&M has won all seven of its home games this early season, but Wednesday's victory came on the heels of consecutive losses in the Corpus Christi (Texas) Classic to Missouri State and SMU.
"We kind of fell apart down in Corpus Christi," Jones admitted.
They did anything but that back on their familiar hardwood, however, and Jones made 7 of 10 3-pointers, one shy of the all-time school record held by three others.
"When I'm in that type of zone I'll keep shooting, and my teammates do a great job of finding me," Jones said.
Fellow junior forward Kourtney Roberson followed with 14 points, and J-Mychal Reese and Davonte Fitzgerald each chipped in 10 in another well-rounded scoring effort for the balanced Aggies.
"I knew how they were going to be feeling after what happened in Corpus," Houston coach James Dickey said. "I knew they were going to be ready to play. And they're just a terrific passing team."
TaShawn Thomas led the 6-3 Cougars, who've lost three of their last four games, with 16 points, and J.J. Richardson followed with 11.
"You can't shoot 34 percent and expect to have an opportunity to win on the road," said Dickey of the Cougars' 21 of 62 showing. "Defensively, Texas A&M really challenges shots -- and that's a credit to them."
Reese's off-balance 3-pointer from left of the key lifted Texas A&M to a 57-45 lead a little more than midway through the second half, and the Aggies owned a comfortable lead the rest of the way. Texas A&M, which led 38-32 at halftime, made 10 of 23 3-pointers (43.5 percent), while Houston was 3 of 15 (20 percent) from beyond the arc.
"That's how they played us," Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said of the Aggies offering up 23 shots from long range courtesy of the Cougars defense. "They were going under ball screens, and we could have gotten as many open threes as we wanted. We have to establish that we can score beyond the arc on a regular basis."
Texas A&M entered the game having made 36 of 119 (30.3 percent) from the 3-point line. Jones, who had made 5 of 7 3-pointers in the Aggies' previous home game (an 88-55 romp over Arkansas-Pine Bluff), earned his first start of the season over Antwan Space.
"I inserted him into the lineup because we needed more offense, and that's what we recruited him to do," said Kennedy, who earned his 250th career victory. "He made his shots, and that opened the floor for everyone else."
Aggies freshman guard Shawn Smith, who'd earned seven starts this season, didn't play because of what Kennedy labeled a "coach's decision."
Texas A&M and Houston played each other as Southwest Conference rivals from 1975-96 and have met four times since, with the Aggies winning three of those, including 70-58 last December at Houston. The Cougars still own a 53-32 all-time series advantage.
"This was a game that was very important to us," a relieved Kennedy said of Texas A&M trying to get back on the right track. "I thought this game, too, was going to go down to the last five minutes. I've got a lot of respect for Houston."
TEAM RECORDS & SERIES NOTES
- Texas A&M improved to 7-2 on the season with Wednesday night’s 74-57 win over Houston at Reed Arena.
- The all-time series between the former Southwest Conference rivals now stands at 53-32 in favor of Houston, however, the Aggies have won each of the last three meetings in the series.
- Additionally, Texas A&M improved to 115-11 (.913) all-time in non-conference games inside Reed Arena.
- The Aggies shot 50 percent from the floor (29-of-58) Wednesday, marking the fifth time this season they have shot 50 percent or better during a game.
- Additionally, A&M made 10-of-23 shots (43.5 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line.
- A&M also displayed impressive ball movement in the contest by registering a season-high 22 assists on 29 made field goals.
- The Aggies reached double-digits in blocks for the third time this season, registering 10 in the win.
- Texas A&M used the starting line-up combination of Alex Caruso, Davonte Fitzgerald, Jordan Green, Jamal Jones and Kourtney Roberson for the first time this season.
- The Aggies owned a 38-32 advantage at halftime.
- Junior guard Jamal Jones led all scorers with 21 points, making seven 3-point baskets to leave him just one short of the A&M record for 3’s in a game … Jones also tied for high-rebounding honors on the Aggies, pulling down seven boards to match Kourtney Roberson.
- Three other Aggies joined Jones in double-digit scoring – Roberson (14), Davonte Fitzgerald (10) and J-Mychal Reese (10).
- Junior guard Jordan Green tied his career-best with six assists in the contest, while also contributing six points and four assists.
- Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy recorded his 250th career win, improving his record in 16 seasons as a head coach to 250-214 with a 39-35 mark in three seasons at A&M.
- The Aggies enjoy a 10-day break before their next contest, which will come on Dec. 14 when they entertain McNeese State at Reed Arena.
- Houston, meanwhile, will face San Jose State at Hofheinz Pavilion in Houston on Saturday.
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH BILLY KENNEDY
“Really proud of how we shared the ball. After the first three minutes I thought we took some ill-advised shots. We started moving the ball and had 22 assists after coming off of a game where we only had four. Our defense was solid. We missed some shots, but I’m really proud of how we played. I think we got better in the tournament and I think we got better today.”
On Jamal Jones’ performance:
“I inserted him into the starting lineup because we needed more offense. That’s what we recruited him to do. He was ready to play; he made some shots and it just opened the floor up for everybody else. He and Devante Fitzgerald make us better offensively.”
On 3-point shooting:
“That’s how other teams play us. We could have created as many open 3’s as we wanted to because they backed off due to how poorly we shot these past few games. We have to establish that we can shoot from beyond the arc on a regular basis, or people are going to continue playing us that way.”
On J-Mychal Reese:
“He was really good. He played really well against SMU as well. It’s good to see him play with some confidence. He was physical and I’m proud of the way he played. He played with a purpose and some aggression. We know he’s capable of doing that and it was good to see tonight.”
On bouncing back after two losses:
“We played well against SMU. SMU is a great team, and we were up with 28 seconds left. I’m more disappointed in our performance against Missouri State, being up five at the half and throwing it away in the second half by playing like a young team and losing poise. Fortunately, we came out and played well tonight. We still made some mistakes, but we shot the ball well enough that we overcame those.”
On the importance of this win:
“We think we have to win every game, but this game was very important to us. You have to win at home and when you have the opportunity to win. The two we lost were in the last five minutes of the game. I thought this game would go to the last five minutes to be honest. I have a lot of respect for Houston and that program. They had 20 wins last year, and right now they’re a little beat up. Fortunately we were able to extend the lead and win going away.”
TEXAS A&M GUARD JAMAL JONES
On getting back on the court:
“Reed Arena really helps us out. The fans really help us. We just kind of fell apart down in Corpus. We all just pulled back together this game and got it back on the right track.”
On being aware of falling a 3-pointer away from A&M record:
“No, I was not. Just now someone told me in the hallway. I didn’t realize it.
On being in a shooting rhythm:
“I just feel like when I’m in that type of zone I can’t miss. My teammates do a great job of finding me. Whenever I hit two or three, they want to keep coming to me and that’s just a part of having great teammates.”
On preparation before the game:
“I picked that up (shooting more before the game). I started doing that recently since the last game I had like five 3’s. I started it then. I’ve just been doing it ever since just trying to get sweat going before everything starts off.”
TEXAS A&M GUARD J-MYCHAL REESE
On his performance tonight:
“I was just being aggressive. I was trying to get in the lane and make plays for others and if I had a shot, take it.”
On playing against guys you know:
“I think it makes the game more fun. I played AAU with a lot of those guys, so it’s fun to see them again and play college ball with them.”
On bouncing back from Corpus with a win:
“We all knew it was important to get that taste out of our mouths, so we all knew we had to bounce back as a team and get a win. We just happened to win pretty big.”
HOUSTON HEAD COACH JAMES DICKEY
“First off let me congratulate Billy [Kennedy] and his team, I thought they really played well. I knew how they were going to be feeling after Corpus. We had the same feeling coming back from New York. I knew they would be ready to play. He does a terrific job with his team. They really execute well. They do a good job with their offense. They are shooting over 50 percent as a team. They hadn’t been shooting quite as well from the 3-point line. Tonight, they were terrific. Obviously, [Jamal] Jones was huge for them. Not only did he shoot the ball well, but he rebounded it. He had a terrific game.”