COLLEGE STATION --Jamal Jones scored 21 points against his former team and Texas A&M defeated Ole Miss 71-60 Saturday evening in front of a rowdy crowd of nearly 7,000 at Reed Arena.
The Aggies (17-12, 8-8) played without star guards Fabyon Harris and Shawn Smith, who've traded out starts at shooting guard for much of the season.
Jarvis Summers paced the Rebels (17-12, 8-8) with 18, while Marshall Henderson finished with 16 points in making only 5-of-16 3-pointers.
Alex Caruso turned in the Aggies' play of the year when he dribbled behind his back in the lane and then dunked over Henderson on a fast break in the decisive second half. Caruso lifted the Aggies to a 39-33 lead with 16:48 remaining, and A&M outscored Ole Miss 32-27 the rest of the way.
Texas A&M 71, Ole Miss 60
March 1, 2014 ● Reed Arena
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH BILLY KENNEDY
“We talked about having character wins and sticking together. I thought we did that all night. I’m proud of Blake McDonald. He always prepares himself; he is what this school is all about. It’s a great win for our team.”
On getting better in conference each year…
“We still have a couple of games left. We would have loved to jump to 12 win in conference play, but our program just wasn’t ready. We are making progress in a lot of areas. I was really proud of our guys sticking together today and getting the win.”
On Jamal Jones…
“No question he was more up for this one than he has been in the last few games. He has a lot of respect for Ole Miss. I thought he had the best second half that he’s had. He moved the ball and made shots. He did a much better job of doing what we wanted him to do in the second half.”
On Jordan Green…
“He knew the last couple of days he was going to guard Henderson. We did a good job switching on him early and mixing it up. He is a tremendous player. I said ‘He is going to wear down and miss some. We just have to keep chasing him.’ He does other things to help them win. He is a really good player.”
On Caruso’s dunk…
“One of the best plays I’ve ever seen. I don’t like to make this comparison often because it’s not fair to Alex, but Jason Kidd, when I coached him at Cal, would make plays like that. I think it was in his head ‘I’ve missed so many layups. I’m going to go finish this one.’ That was an incredible play. It kicked us up to another level.”
TEXAS A&M JUNIOR JAMAL JONES
On his emotional investment in the game…
"This game meant a lot to me. I was at Ole Miss for my freshman year and got released. I really wanted to win, my teammates knew I wanted to win, and we just came together and got it done."
TEXAS A&M SOPHOMORE ALEX CARUSO
On the shorthanded roster…
"Being able to win with a shorthanded roster epitomizes this team: heart, toughness, do whatever it takes to win. Luckily, we were shorthanded at home and not on the road, because that would've been tough. The crowd that showed up today helped us out tremendously. When we're clicking, we're pretty good. The six or seven guys who played got into a groove and we just carried on from there."
On his spectacular dunk…
"I didn't really have it planned out in my head that I was going to do a behind the back cross and then dunk on Marshall Henderson, it was just instinct. I peeked behind me to see if anyone was there and it was just me and Jordan two-on-two. I did a stutter move and he tried to steal it so naturally I took it behind the back to get the ball away from him. From there it was just adrenaline. I missed something like four lay ups in the first half, so I told myself that the next chance I get I'm going to put it in, and I did."
OLE MISS HEAD COACH ANDY KENNEDY
On Ole Miss Guard Marshall Henderson…
"His shooting percentage on the road has not been very stellar. Honestly, he was about on par. We run baseline screens for him and people have started to switch their big man on him. Our problem with that is usually well get the ball inside to the mismatch and finish at the rim, but we weren't able to finish today. They were able to switch on him with no risk and he ends up taking some tough shots."
On the Rebels’ struggles after halftime…
"I thought the game was decided early in the second half. We started with a bad shooting percentage and dug an insurmountable hole. They controlled the second half shooting 59% when we shoot 28%. There's really not much else to talk about."
On Texas A&M’s Jamal Jones…
"He's really turned himself into a great catch and shoot guy. We left him early in the game and he made some. I thought we did a little better of a job in the second half, we made him work a little harder to get his shots. The real key to the game was their inside guys. Roberson did very well, I think Jordan Green had a great floor game and then Alex Caruso works the floor. When you think about their four and five going 10-for-11, compared to what we got at the productivity level up front, it made all the difference in the game."
Texas A&M 71, Ole Miss 60
March 1, 2014 ● Reed Arena
TEAM RECORDS & SERIES NOTES
● Texas A&M improved to 17-12 on the season with an 8-8 record in SEC play after the 71-60 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday evening inside Reed Arena … The eight wins in SEC play exceeds last season’s total with two games remaining in the regular season.
● Additionally, the Aggies improved to 16-2 at Reed Arena this season.
● The all-time series between the schools now stands at 3-1 in favor of Texas A&M.
● The Aggie shot 50.9 percent during the contest (27-for-53), marking the eighth time this year they’ve made at least 50 percent of their shot opportunities … During the second half, A&M was 13-for-22 (59.1%) as they outscored Ole Miss 38-27.
● Defensively, A&M limited the Rebels to a 36.1 shooting percentage (22-for-61) with a 9-for-32 mark after halftime (28.1%).
● Texas A&M made all six of its free throw attempts (Alex Caruso-2, Jordan Green-2 & Jamal Jones-2) during the games final 1:23 to preserve the win.
● The game went to the intermission tied at 33-33.
● The Maroon & White used the starting line-up combination of Alex Caruso, Jordan Green, Jamal Jones, Antwan Space and Kourtney Roberson for the second time this season (1-1).
● Junior Jamal Jones led all scorers with 21 points in the contest, making 7-of-18 shot attempts … It was the sixth time this year Jones has cracked the 20-point plateau.
● Junior Jordan Green set a new career-high with 16 points, making 6-of-12 shots.
● Sophomore Alex Caruso dished out nine assists to give him 251 for his A&M career … He becomes the 15th member of A&M’s 250 Career Assist Club and the eight Aggie to do so in just two seasons.
● Caruso also added seven points and a game-high seven rebounds in the win.
● Junior Kourtney Roberson went a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor to contribute 13 points.
● A&M head coach Billy Kennedy is now 49-45 in his third season at Texas A&M and 260-224 in 16 years as a head coach.
● The Aggies hit the road for the final time during the regular season when they travel to Columbia, Mo. to face Missouri on Wednesday inside Mizzou Arena ... The game is slated to tip-off at 7 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN3.com.