COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Texas A&M snapped a five-game losing streak with a 72-52 victory over Mississippi State on Wednesday night before 4,626 fans in Reed Arena.
Jamal Jones led the Aggies with 20 points and fellow forward Kourtney Roberson followed with 14. The Aggies (13-9, 4-5 SEC) and Bulldogs (13-9, 3-6) had lost eight consecutive games between them entering the contest, and A&M avenged an 81-72 overtime loss in Starkville, Miss., on Jan. 18 that kicked off the Aggies' losing streak.
MSU, in playing its first game in history in College Station, traded leads with A&M until early in the second half, when the Aggies pulled away thanks to a relentless 16-0 run. A&M's defense held the Bulldogs scoreless for more than 10 minutes in that stretch -- from the 16:26 mark (36-35) to 6:08 (52-37).
The Aggies shot poorly from the 3-point line early (finishing 6 of 18 for 33.3 percent), but stayed in the game by outscoring the Bulldogs 40-14 in the paint and 22-1 in points off turnovers. The game's highlight occurred when A&M freshman Davonte Fitzgerald blocked a fast-break layup attempt by Fred Thomas that prompted a roar from the sparse crowd more than midway through the second half, with A&M clutching a 47-35 lead.
No MSU player even reached double digits in scoring until Thomas sank a 3-pointer with 3:20 remaining in the contest. He and Craig Sword paced the Bulldogs with 10 points each. The Aggies also forced 17 MSU turnovers while committing only six of their own.
The Bulldogs return home for consecutive contests against No. 18 Kentucky and Georgia on Saturday and Wednesday, respectively, while the Aggies play at Georgia on Saturday and return to Reed for a Wednesday contest against LSU.
TEAM RECORDS & SERIES NOTES
● Texas A&M improved to 13-9 on the season and 4-5 in SEC play after the 72-52 win over Mississippi State Wednesday night in Reed Arena.
● The meeting was the sixth all-time between the Aggies and Bulldogs and the first to take place in College Station … The all-time series between the schools stands tied at 3-3.
● Texas A&M tied its season high with 22 assists in the contest while matching its season low with just six turnovers.
● The Aggies capitalized on 17 Bulldog turnovers as they enjoyed a 22-1 advantage in points off turnovers.
● A&M also held a significant edge in the interior, scoring 40 points in the paint compared to Mississippi State’s 14.
● The contest went to the intermission with the score tied at 26-26 … It was the first time that the Aggies have been tied at the half this season … Fueled by a 16-0 run that began with 16:26 to play, Texas A&M outscore Mississippi State 46-26 during the second half.
●The Aggies shot 69 percent from the field in the second half, their highest shooting percentage in any half this season.
● Additionally, the Aggies held the Bulldogs scoreless for over 11 minutes in the second half.
● The Maroon & White used the starting line-up combination of Alex Caruso, Shawn Smith, Jordan Green, Jamal Jones and Kourtney Roberson for the first time this season.
● Junior Jamal Jones logged his fifth game this season with 20 or more points and his 11th game of double digit-scoring ... The Wynn, Ark., native shot 50 percent in the contest, making 7-of-14 attempts while converting four 3-point baskets.
● With 10 assists on the night, sophomore Alex Caruso eclipsed the 100-assists mark for the year and recorded his second game with 10 or more assists.
● Freshman Dylan Johns smashed his career rebound record with five boards.
● A&M head coach Billy Kennedy is now 45-42 in his third season at Texas A&M and 256-221 in 16 years as a head coach.
● The Aggies are back on the road this weekend when they travel to Athens, Ga., to battle Georgia on Saturday at 7 p.m. (CT) inside Stegeman Coliseum.
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH BILLY KENNEDY
“It was definitely good to see the ball go in the hole tonight, especially during the second half. We finished around the basket some, got open threes and made them. We shared the ball well tonight. I was really proud that we competed at a high level. We haven’t done that in the last couple of games but we got better today. I’m thankful for everyone who has stuck by us and continued to encourage us. We have a lot of great Aggies who give us support and we’re thankful for that.”
On winning after several tough losses…
“I’ve said all along that we would be up and down. I didn’t know we get be as down as we have gotten the last week or so. We’ve practiced well and we’ve practiced hard. We just haven’t been able to respond to adversity. I thought tonight was the first night in at least a week and a half that we responded to some adversity in the first half and didn’t hang our heads. We just kept competing through it, even when it wasn’t pretty or we missed some opportunities to score. We hung tough and kept going. Jamal Jones was probably the best at doing that. He was disappointed in the first half and in missing some shots. He has worked really hard in the last few days on getting a bunch of shots up and getting his confidence back. In the second half, the open threes he made were huge for us.”
On high number of assists…
“Alex Caruso did a tremendous job. He had 10 assists and two turnovers while playing 31 minutes. I thought he did a really good job of making decisions tonight.”
On Jamal Jones’ performance…
“He did some other things tonight. My challenge to Jamal has been, ‘If you’re not making shots, you are athletic enough to block shots. You are athletic enough to get deflections. You are a really good passer.’”
TEXAS A&M SOPHOMORE ALEX CARUSO
On getting back on track…
"It always feels good after a win. We're proud of the way we played. Lately, we've been talking about having a new sense of urgency, and I think we showed that today. We slacked off a little bit there at the end of the first half, but we really picked it up in the second half. Credit to our defense and us hustling around tonight."
On containing Sword and Ware…
"Credit to the scouting report our coaches came up with. I think we did a pretty good job of helping on Ware and Sword.”
TEXAS A&M JUNIOR JAMAL JONES
On changes in individual performance…
“I’ve been getting in the gym more, since I have been in a slump. I’ve been trying to do whatever I can just to make shots and help the team in whatever way possible. I’ve been spending so much time in the gym lately that Coach told me that I needed to slow down a little.”
On Kourtney Roberson’s role…
“Kourtney knows that he has to play like this every game. He was really amped up for this game because of how we played against them two weeks ago. He figured it out and he knows that we need every win from here on out. He is going to be a leader on the court, in huddles and on defense. He will do everything he can to help us win.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE HEAD COACH RICK RAY
"I was really disappointed in our effort. I thought we had about as bad of a first half as we've had all season. It sounds ironic, but I was still optimistic about the second half because as bad as we played, it was a tie ball game so therefore it was 0-0 to start the second half. I was sorely mistaken-we played even worse in the second half. You can't give yourself a chance to win when you give up 69 percent from the field in the second half and give up uncontested layups. We're shooting ourselves in the foot because we have our offensive roles, but you can't give the other team points off turnovers (i think they had us 20-1 in that category) like we did tonight. We have to figure out where our competitive spirit is, especially on the defensive end, if we want to win ball games."