Texas A&M uses balanced attack to thump Marshall 92-68
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — The holidays are a time for sharing – and Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy is loving what he’s witnessing from his players on that front.
“I like to see it when we have five, almost six guys in double figures,” Kennedy said. “That means we’re sharing the ball, and we’re harder to defend.”
Christian Mekowulu and TJ Starks each scored 17 points and Josh Nebo added 16 as A&M defeated Marshall 92-68 on Saturday in Reed Arena. For good measure the Aggies also had Brandon Mahan scoring 12, Jay Jay Chandler adding 11 and John Walker chipping in nine.
“It’s hard to guard us when you’ve got five players in double figures,” Starks said. “You don’t know who’s going to score, or when they’re going to score.”
The Aggies (6-4) dominated the Thundering Herd (6-6) in rebounds (54-30), points in the paint (58-24) and bench points (44-14). Rondale Watson led the Thundering Herd with 19 points and C.J. Burks added 18, while A&M’s Savion Flagg led all rebounders with a dozen.
Marshall led 27-24 with 6:47 remaining in the first half, before the Aggies heated up to close out the first 20 minutes. Starks, who came off the bench for the first time this season, sank a 3-pointer to tie the game at 27-27 with 6:23 to the break, and Mahan and Nebo took over from there.
Mahan scored A&M’s next four points, and Nebo then collected three field goals — including two tip-ins and a dunk — in the final four minutes of the first half to lift the Aggies to a 41-33 lead at the break. It was all downhill from there for the Thundering Herd, who saw a two-game win streak snapped.
“A&M has won five straight and (Kennedy) does a great job, but this game was on us, not so much him,” said Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni, whose younger brother, Mike D’Antoni, coaches the NBA’s Houston Rockets about 100 miles from College Station.
Marshall backup forward Iran Bennett hurt his ankle in the first half in trying to defend an A&M drive to the basket, and Bennett sat out the second half with a walking boot on his right foot. D’Antoni said Bennett would be evaluated further on Sunday.
Marshall: The Thundering Herd are closing out their nonconference schedule with a couple of “name” opponents in A&M and Virginia, and the experience of playing a couple of salty SEC and ACC foes will only help Marshall in Conference USA play – despite the double-digit thumping on Saturday.
A&M: The Aggies continue to play without senior guard and leader Admon Gilder, who’s missed all 10 games with an undisclosed health issue, but they’re playing their best ball of the season with SEC play right around the corner. A&M has won five consecutive games for the first time since opening last season 8-0, a squad that made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
STATS OF THE NIGHT
Eight of Nebo’s 10 first-half points came on tip-ins or dunks. Overall, he made all seven of his shots from the field and both of his free throws.
Flagg skied for a dunk off a perfect pass from Nebo on a fast break to lift A&M to a 35-29 lead late in the first half — Flagg’s first points in two games after missing all three of his field-goal attempts against Valparaiso.
HE SAID IT
“When TJ is engaged like that, it makes our team a lot better. He was really good coming off the bench — his attitude was good and his performance was good…” Kennedy on Starks coming off the bench for the first time this season.
Marshall also takes off a few days for Christmas before playing at Virginia on New Year’s Eve, in its last nonconference game before opening Conference USA play on Jan. 3 at Old Dominion.
A&M breaks for a few days for Christmas prior to playing host to Texas Southern on Dec. 29, in its final nonconference contest before beginning SEC play on Jan. 5 at home against Arkansas.
For more AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25