COLLEGE STATION--The Texas A&M basketball team, after beginning the season 3-0 in conference play, continued its SEC skid with a 66-55 loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday afternoon at Reed Arena.
A back-and-forth affair for the entirety of the first half, both offenses struggled to gain any serious traction before the teams headed to their respective locker rooms. A last-minute screen would allow for a wide-open Vanderbilt three-pointer to end the half, allowing the visiting Commodores a two-point lead and significant momentum.
The second half would present a different story as the Commodores raced to a 12-point lead – one they would not relinquish – to put insurmountable pressure on the Aggies. Vanderbilt forward James Siakam and guard Kyle Fuller would frustrate the Texas A&M defense, scoring 22 and 19 points, respectively.
The Aggies, meanwhile, could not muster much scoring from their leading shooters. Jamal Jones – averaging 18.2 points per game in SEC play before Saturday – would score seven. Freshman Devonte Fitzgerald, Texas A&M’s most dangerous bench weapon, would never score.
Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said the output of Jones and Fitzgerald would throw a wrench in any potential offensive productivity.
“You have to give Vanderbilt credit, they did a great job guarding Fitzgerald and Jones,” Kennedy said. “When they go 1 for 12, we really struggle scoring. We had opportunities to finish around the basket and against Vanderbilt you have to do that. They had guys step up and carry the load. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough other guys able to step up.”
Shooting at a 33.3 percent clip from the floor, the Aggies were almost completely stifled by the Vanderbilt defense. Forward Kourtney Roberson would provide one positive note for Texas A&M, giving the Aggies an inside scoring presence and its only double-digit scoring total (14).
Still, the Aggies could not match the energy or offensive production of the Commodores down the stretch.
“We were pretty loose before the game yesterday going over our sets at night but this morning I don’t think we were locked in the way we were supposed to be,” Texas A&M guard Jordan Green said. “That won’t happen again.”
The Aggies will take to the road once more when they travel to South Carolina Wednesday and national power Florida Feb. 1.
Kennedy hopes the Aggies can bring back the energy they possessed in their first three conference matchups.
“I thought we were playing with a lot more confidence in the first three games [of SEC play],” Kennedy said. “We go to Kentucky, Mississippi State and lose some of that. We’ve got an inexperienced group and we have to get ourselves going. I don’t think we have a problem with our attitude. We just got to get back to when we’re open, we step up and make a shot.”
Vanderbilt 66, Texas A&M 55
Jan. 25, 2014 ● Reed Arena
TEAM RECORDS & SERIES NOTES
● Texas A&M fell to 12-7 on the season and 3-3 in SEC play with the 66-55 loss to Vanderbilt at Reed Arena Saturday afternoon … The Aggies are 11-2 on their home court this season.
● The contest marks just the third time the Aggies have played Vanderbilt and the series now stands 3-0 in favor of Vanderbilt
● Saturday marked the first time the Commodores have traveled to College Station.
● The game stood as a close affair with 10 lead changes and seven ties before the Commodores took the lead for good with 15:16 to play in the second half.
● Despite the loss, Texas A&M’s defense held Vanderbilt to below its season averages for points, field goal percentage, and three point field goal percentage.
● A&M had great success running the court, scoring a total of 12 points to mark the eighth time this year the Aggies have scored double digits on the fast break.
● The Maroon & White used the starting line-up combination of Alex Caruso, Shawn Smith, Jordan Green, Jamal Jones and Kourtney Roberson for the second time this season.
● The Commodores took a 27-25 lead into the intermission before outscoring the Aggies 39-30 after halftime.
● Junior Kourtney Roberson reached double digits in points for the eighth time this season and the 22nd time in his career … The forward racked up 14 points and 10 rebounds against the Commodores to register his third double-double this season and the fifth of his A&M career.
● Junior Jordan Green tied his career high in 3-pointers made, going 2-for-3 from beyond the arc … The Flower Mound, Texas, native finished with nine points in the contest.
● Freshman Shawn Smith enjoyed a solid outing by chipping in nine points and also tying his career high with three assists.
● A&M head coach Billy Kennedy is now 44-40 in his third season at Texas A&M and 255-219 in 16 years as a head coach.
● The Aggies hit the road once again next week as they travel to Columbia, S.C., to battle South Carolina on Wednesday ... The game is set to tip-off at 6 p.m. (CT) and will be streamed by ESPN3.
Vanderbilt 66, Texas A&M 55
Jan. 25, 2014 ● Reed Arena
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH BILLY KENNEDY
"First off all, you have to give a lot of credit to Vanderbilt. They did a great job defending Fitzgerald and Jones. We had opportunities to make lay ups around the basket and against Vandy, you have to do that. They had some other guys step up to carry the load, and, unfortunately, we didn't have anyone able to step up and carry the load when Davonte and Jamal were struggling."
On team's emotions before the game…
"I thought we were good emotionally, and we practiced well this week. We have to learn how to counter. We want our guys to shoot when they're open. Fabyon isn't letting it go, I thought Shawn passed up some opportunities, and even the last three Alex took, he was wide open but decided to shot fake and drive to the basket for a harder shot. We just couldn't score and it puts too much pressure on your defense when you're not taking advantage of your scoring opportunities."
On A&M defensively…
"Our defensive game plan was somewhat positive because we wanted to limit Odom and Jones, but we can't let any of their other players have career nights like James Siakam had tonight."
On responding to a loss like this at home…
"We just have to bounce back. We have to have some guys grow up fast. We need to get in the gym, put some shots up, and build our confidence back up. When you have a team that struggles scoring, you've got to try and make some easy buckets. We got some offensive rebounds, Kourtney was more effective and playing with more energy today. Ultimately, when you're open, you have to shoot it. We didn't shoot some of them. We got frustrated and drove it to try and make a harder shot. We have to shoot it when it's open and be confident it's going to go in."
TEXAS A&M JUNIOR KOURTNEY ROBERSON
On his play today…
"I talked to coach earlier this week, and he told me I need to get more aggressive and try and score more. He said I needed to get back to getting offensive rebounds and keep talking on defense. I tried to do all of that today."
On Vandy's play down low…
"Their cross screens are what really got us. We weren't talking enough on the screens and they kept getting the open man for an easy layup. It just seemed like today we couldn't communicate well enough to let each other know where they were on defense."
TEXAS A&M JUNIOR JORDAN GREEN
On lack of scoring…
“I think that we are a team that goes off of the defense. If our defense isn’t high-intensity in the passing lanes and doing all the little things that Coach is teaching us, it’s going to be hard for anybody to score. I don’t think we defended well enough to be able to score. That’s what gets us going.”
On mindset going into the game…
“We were pretty loose before the game yesterday and going over sets at night. This morning, I don’t think we were locked in the way we were supposed to be. That won’t happen again.”
VANDERBILT HEAD COACH KEVIN STALLINGS
“I was really proud of our team today. We’ve had some tough games lately. For our guys to come out and give that kind of an effort here was really impressive to me. I think that we probably caught A&M at just the right time. They went on the road to Kentucky. Having been on the road for a long time, I know that you get really excited to face a Kentucky team that’s near the top of the league. It’s a little bit harder to get yourself ready to play Vanderbilt when they are at the bottom of the league the next game. We were a benefactor in timing. I thought we played well defensively. James Siakam was terrific for us. We were fortunate that they didn’t shoot the ball well. Their guys that normally make shots missed today, some of that is just a function of luck. They had some open looks that didn’t go in but I thought our guys did a nice job. They did a good job of taking care of the ball, which has been a huge thing for us all season. We are really happy to get a road win.”