Billy Kennedy

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Turnovers, poor shooting cost No. 5 Texas A&M at Arkansas

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With 10 straight wins since a 13-point loss at Arizona State in early December, No. 5 Texas A&M emerged as the class of the SEC thanks to multiple scoring options, taking good care of the basketball and a solid defense. However those first two strengths weren’t present in Fayetteville Wednesday night, as the Aggies struggled to knock down shots and avoid turnovers.

The end result was a 74-71 loss at the hands of Arkansas, ending Texas A&M’s winning streak and also handing them their first loss in SEC play.

Entering Wednesday night no team in the SEC took better care of the basketball than Texas A&M, which turned the ball over on just 15 percent of its possessions in conference play. That wasn’t the case against Arkansas, as the Aggies coughed the ball up on 28.4 percent of their possessions (21 turnovers). Arkansas used pressure at times but it was more of the token variety, looking to take time off of the shot clock as opposed to speeding things up to the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” level that we’d grown accustomed to seeing from Mike Anderson-coached teams.

But Texas A&M made more mistakes in the half-court, with four starters having at least three turnovers on the night (Jalen Jones had five and Alex Caruso four, and some dubious offensive foul calls didn’t help either). Texas A&M was fortunate that Arkansas was unable to convert those turnovers into more points on the other end, as the home team scored 15 points off of Aggie turnovers.

Yet in dodging that bullet Texas A&M was unable to get over the hump as multiple key scorers struggled offensively. Outside of Danuel House (24 points, 7-for-12 FG) and Tyler Davis (14 points, 3-for-6 FG, 8-for-9 FT) the efficiency wasn’t there for a team that in conference games ranked second in the SEC in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Arkansas remained solid defensively, forcing Texas A&M to make challenged looks and at 39.6 percent shooting the Aggies were unable to do so at a high enough clip to get the win.

The question now is what do we make of Texas A&M, whose lead atop the SEC is down to one game in the loss column with their loss (LSU and Kentucky are 6-2, with South Carolina 5-2). While impressive in their seven wins to open SEC, Texas A&M’s best wins came at home against Florida and LSU.

The Aggies should still be viewed as the favorites to win the SEC, but they won’t lack for challengers either with games against each of the three teams directly behind them in the standings yet to be played. And the other games left on the schedule won’t be easy either, especially if the Aggies don’t take care of the ball as they have for the majority of their games this season.

Billy Kennedy’s team uncharacteristically struggled with turnovers against Arkansas, which was able to do enough to get the win.

Jones scores 20 as No. 10 A&M gets 66-53 win over Missouri

Texas A&M's Jalen Jones (12) grabs a rebound against Missouri's Ryan Rosburg (44) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)
AP Photo/Sam Craft
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Jalen Jones scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half to lead No. 10 Texas A&M to a 66-53 victory over Missouri on Saturday, extending the Aggies’ winning streak to 10 games.

Missouri (8-11, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) led by two points when Jones scored eight straight points to give A&M (17-2, 7-0) a 44-38 lead with about 13 minutes left. Jones started that stretch with his second 3-point play of the half and capped it with a 3-pointer. The Tigers missed six straight shots and went 5 minutes without scoring as the Aggies built the lead.

Ryan Rosburg finally broke Missouri’s scoring drought with a dunk with just under 10 minutes left, but Jones made his third three-point play of the half to start a 10-0 run that made it 54-40 with less than 7 minutes remaining and the Tigers didn’t threaten again.

Wes Clark had 12 points for Missouri, which dropped its fourth straight.

Texas A&M’s winning streak is its longest since it won 13 straight from Nov. 26, 2010 to Jan. 15, 2011, and its 7-0 start in the SEC is its best conference start since it also started 7-0 in 1993-94 to begin Southwest Conference play.

Jones struggled in the first half, missing all three of his field goal attempts, and making three free throws. He had no such trouble in the second half when he scored almost half of A&M’s points to fuel the victory.

The Tigers couldn’t find a rhythm offensively in the second half and went more than 3 1/2 minutes without scoring after the dunk by Rosburg that ended an even longer stretch without scoring.

Danuel House added 17 points and had a career-high seven assists for A&M, which hasn’t lost since Dec. 5.

Missouri scored the first eight points of the second half, with the first four from Kevin Puryear and the last four from Rosburg, to take a 33-29 lead with 17 1/2 minutes remaining.

The Aggies finally got on the board in the second half with a three-point play by Jones soon after and a jump shot that House made under heavy pressure just before the shot clock expired cut the lead to 35-34 about a minute later.

The Tigers led by two after a layup from Puryear with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the first half. The Aggies went on an 8-1 run, capped by consecutive 3-pointers from Admon Gilder and D.J. Hogg, to take a 25-20 lead.

Namon Wright hit a jump shot near the end of the first half to cut A&M’s lead to 29-25 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Missouri: Rosburg, who had 10 points, fouled out with about 4 1/2 minutes left. … Puryear finished with 11 points and six rebounds. … The Tigers made just 3 of 19 3-point attempts.

Texas A&M: Alex Caruso had five assists and four rebounds. … A&M’s bench outscored Missouri’s 21-5. … Tavario Miller had 10 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Missouri: Visits No. 23 Kentucky on Wednesday.

Texas A&M: Visits Arkansas on Wednesday.

Texas A&M looks for first NCAA trip since 2011

Danuel House
Associated Press
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) The Texas A&M Aggies improved in each of the last three seasons and believe they will take another big step forward this year and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.

In fact, coach Billy Kennedy all but guaranteed it in March when the Aggies were eliminated in the second round of the NIT tournament.

“I’ll go on the record and say now we’ll be a tournament team next year … I’m talking about NCAA,” Kennedy said.

He has plenty of reason to be confident in his team with a trio of senior starters led by guard Danuel House, who is in his second season with the team after a transfer from the University of Houston.

House earned first-team All-SEC honors last season after finishing fourth in scoring in league play with 16.2 points a game. House is one of just three returning players in the SEC who earned first team honors last season.

House had a foot injury late last season and missed time in the offseason with a knee injury, but Kennedy said he’s “really healthy now.”

He’s joined by fellow senior guard Alex Caruso, who led the SEC with 182 assists last season to become the first player in the league to lead in that category in consecutive seasons since 2009. The third senior is forward Jalen Jones. He earned second-team All-SEC honors a year ago after averaging 13.7 points a game and leading the Aggies with 6.6 rebounds a game.

The Aggies ramped up preparation for the season on Wednesday night when they had their annual Maroon and White scrimmage. House was encouraged by what he saw.

“We just tried to focus mainly on defense, staying positive and sharing the ball with each other,” he said. “Not trying to be selfish or not trying to be outside ourselves because we have talent at every spot.”

Though those three are the leaders of the team, Kennedy, who is entering his fifth year at Texas A&M, is excited about the players behind them, too.

“We have more depth than we’ve had in the past and we have guys who can score,” Kennedy said.

The Aggies open the season on Nov. 13 against University of Southern California-Upstate.

Some things to know about the 2015-16 Aggies:

NEW FACES

The Aggies welcome a recruiting class that is arguably the best in school history. The group is highlighted by Tyler Davis, ranked by ESPN as the top player in Texas and the seventh-ranked center in the nation. He was named Mr. Basketball by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches after averaging 18.7 points, 12.2 and 3.4 blocks a game in leading Plano West to the 6A state title last season. He’s joined at A&M by high school teammate DJ Hogg, rated by some as the second-best player in the state. The forward averaged 17.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in Plano West’s championship season last year.

THE GRADUATE

A new addition on the team will also be one of the oldest ones. Anthony Collins is a 23-year-old who played 101 games with 98 starts at South Florida before joining the Aggies this year as a graduate student. Collins averaged 8.1 points and 5.6 assists in his career at South Florida. He gained an extra year of eligibility after missing most of the 2013-14 season with an injury. His 569 career assists at South Florida are second in school history.

ACT TWO

Texas A&M’s seniors are joined by Tavario Miller, Alex Robinson and Tonny Trocha-Morelos who all played at least 25 games a year ago. Robinson is a guard who appeared in 32 games last season and averaged 5.2 points a game. The Aggies are looking for more from Trocha-Morelos after the 6-foot-10 center from Colombia averaged just 1.5 points and two rebounds last year.

“He continues to get better and I think he is going to help our team a bunch,” Kennedy said.”

WHAT A TRIP

The Aggies got some early bonding time this summer when they went on a 10-day tour of Italy and Greece. The tour included four exhibition games and plenty of sightseeing. House, who made the trip but didn’t play because of an injury, said the experience was a great chance for the group to work on their chemistry in a low-key atmosphere before the hard work of the season began.