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Balanced effort pushes Arizona past No. 7 Texas A&M

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Having struggled in non-conference play, most notably going 0-3 at the Battle 4 Atlantis, Arizona needed a quality win for its non-conference profile. The Wildcats picked up that win Tuesday night, as they beat seventh-ranked Texas A&M 67-64 at the Valley of the Sun Shootout in Phoenix. DeAndre Ayton, Brandon Randolph, Dusan Ristic and Dylan Smith led the way offensively for the Wildcats, scoring 13 points apiece, with Ayton adding ten rebounds.

Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis led all scorers with 21, but it wasn’t enough as the Aggies suffered their first loss of the season. Here are three takeaways from Arizona’s win over Texas A&M.

1. Arizona won despite an off night from Allonzo Trier.

The junior guard entered Tuesday’s game averaging 23.9 points per game, shooting 57.1 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from three and 78.0 percent from the foul line. Texas A&M managed to neutralize Trier, as he was just 2-for-7 from the field and finished the night with seven points to go along with three rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. Given Arizona’s struggles to get consistent offense from players other than Trier or Ayton in games against quality competition, the Wildcats finding a way to win despite the team’s leading scorer having an off night is a positive development.

In addition to Smith, who scored in double figures for the first time as a Wildcat, Randolph reached double figures for the third time in the last four games. Randolph, a part of Arizona’s highly regarded recruiting class, scored a total of six points in Arizona’s first four games. There’s still a lot to be improved upon, but grinding out a win despite Trier going cold is a positive for the Wildcats.

2. Tyler Davis may not be as high on draft boards as Robert Williams III, but he’s a tough cover for just about any front court.

Tuesday’s matchup between Williams and DeAndre Ayton was the one many NBA Draft types were looking forward to, as both have the potential to be lottery picks in June. But there’s something to be said for a veteran big man as well, with Tyler Davis being the one player Arizona did not seem to have an answer for defensively. Davis made nine of his 12 field goal attempts, doing much of his work on the low block.

Whether it was Ayton, Dusan Ristic or any other big man, Arizona could not do much to put Davis in situations where he would struggle to get a quality look at the basket. With Williams still being a work in progress when it comes to his offensive skill set, having a big man who can consistently produce offense on the low block will certainly help Texas A&M in its quest to win the SEC.

3. Arizona needs to be a bit more judicious with its shot selection.

Entering Tuesday’s game 31.9 percent of Arizona’s field goal attempts were three-pointers, a mark that ranked 280th in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Against Texas A&M the Wildcats attempted 22 three-pointers, making seven, with nearly 47 percent of Arizona’s field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. And outside of Dylan Smith, who made all three of his three-pointers, Arizona combined to shoot 4-for-19 from three.

Texas A&M’s front court can make it difficult on opposing teams when it comes to finding quality looks around the basket, but there were also instances in which Arizona settled for perimeter shots. The eventual return of Rawle Alkins should help with this, but there’s also no excuse for six of Allonzo Trier’s seven shot attempts being three-pointers.

If Arizona is to reach the expectations set for them before the season began, they’ve got room to grow on both ends of the floor. That being said, building on Saturday’s win over UNLV with this quality result should help the Wildcats moving forward.

No. 16 Aggies win Progressive Classic behind Williams

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NEW YORK (AP) — Robert Williams had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead No. 16 Texas A&M to a 98-87 victory over Penn State in the championship game of the Progressive Legends Classic on Tuesday night at Barclays Center.

Duane Wilson led the Aggies (4-0) with 22 points while Tyler Davis chipped in 15, Admon Gilder had 14 and Tonny Torcha-Morelos finished with 11.

Despite getting a career-high 31 points from Tony Carr, Penn State (5-1) lost its first game of the season. Lamar Stevens added 25 points for Penn State.

The Aggies took a 42-40 lead into halftime due to Williams’ two-hand follow jam with 4 seconds left in the half. Seven of the eight players who got into the game in the first half for Texas A&M scored, led by Williams’ 12.

And the Aggies needed every point, as Carr was a one-man offensive onslaught for the Nittany Lions. Carr had 21 points in the opening half on 7-of-8 shooting including 2 for 2 from 3-point range. He made 5 of 6 free throws.

Texas A&M took a 63-51 lead on Wilson’s scoop layup 6:41 into the second half. Wilson’s layup was the culmination of a stretch in which the Aggies outscored the Nittany Lions 21-11.

Following Wilson’s layup, Penn State coach Pat Chambers called time out. DJ Hogg hit a 3 for the Aggies, Gilder made two free throws and Williams finished a 2-on-1 break with a two-handed jam off an alley-oop pass which pushed the lead to 70-53.

Penn State used an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 70-61.

After a layup by Gilder pushed the lead to 72-61, the Nittany Lions scored the next five points on a layup by Carr and three free throws from Stevens. That was as close as they would get.

Williams was named tournament MVP, and was joined on the all-tournament team by Wilson, Carr, Stevens and Oklahoma State’s Jeffrey Carroll.

BIG PICTURE:

PENN STATE: The positive for Penn State is that Carr and Stevens combined for 56 points. The negative? The rest of the Nittany Lions totaled 31.

TEXAS A&M: The defensively stout Aggies were able to flex their offensive muscle against Penn State. Texas A&M made 33 of 54 shots (61 percent) from the field and knocked down 26 of 29 (89.7 percent) free throws.

NOTABLE:

PENN STATE: In the Chambers Era, the Nittany Lions are 4-3 all-time in games played in New York City, and 2-2 at games held at Barclays Center.

TEXAS A&M: The Aggies improved to 4-0 all-time against the Nittany Lions. Texas A&M is 2-0 at neutral site venues against Penn State.

UP NEXT:

PENN STATE: Hosts Oral Roberts on Friday.

TEXAS A&M: Hosts Pepperdine on Friday.

___

For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

No. 9 Kentucky rallies to take down Texas A&M

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Kentucky looked like they might get blown out after a sluggish start but the No. 9 Wildcats rallied on Saturday for a 71-63 SEC road win over Texas A&M. The win helped Kentucky capture the outright SEC regular-season title.

Trailing 16-2 to start the game, the Wildcats once again got off to a slow start but they were able to overcome the deficit with a balanced effort.

The Wildcats (26-5, 16-2) have found themselves in compromising situations before during this season and freshman guard Malik Monk’s ability to turn into a supernova and score double-figure points in the blink of an eye has helped Kentucky rally when they were behind.

That version of Monk never showed up on Saturday

Monk only finished with six points on 2-for-10 shooting as he couldn’t get going on offense. So Kentucky, instead, relied on their defense and a balanced offensive effort to climb back into the game as they were able to establish control for the second half.

Freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox paced Kentucky with 19 points — 15 of which came in the second half — as he did a nice job of attacking the basket and staying aggressive on offense. Bam Adebayo (13 points) and Derek Willis (11 points) also finished in double-figures for the Wildcats. Kentucky only finished 29 percent (7-for-24) from three-point range, but with a slower tempo that minimized possessions, it didn’t hurt them as much as a typical game.

Texas A&M (16-14, 8-10) got off to a strong start when they were able to get things done on the interior but their lack of perimeter shooting really hurt them in the end. The Aggies were only 5-for-18 from the perimeter (27 percent) as they couldn’t get much going after the hot start.

Guard Admon Gilder finished with a team-high 22 points while Robert Williams was another bright spot for Texas A&M with 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Ristic, No. 19 Arizona holds off Texas A&M

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HOUSTON — Playing with a seven-man rotation, Arizona coach Sean Miller admitted his team wore down late against Texas A&M.

The Wildcats had just enough left to fight off the Aggies on Saturday.

Dusan Ristic tied a season-high with 18 points as No. 19 Arizona had to hold off a furious rally by Texas A&M for its fourth straight victory, 67-63.

“We have seven scholarship players, and we hit around that 10-minute, 8-minute mark and guys start missing shots and defense is not that easy as it once was,” Miller said. “That is why depth is so critical. . When they sensed we were running out of gas, they put it into overdrive.”

Ristic scored 14 of Arizona’s first 24 points and finished 8 of 12 from the field for the Wildcats (10-2), who shot 40 percent from the field, including 48 percent in the first half.

Lauri Markkanen added 17 points and seven rebounds, and Kobi Simmons chipped in 14 points for the Wildcats.

“We were fortunate to hold on, but I also think we deserved to win,” Miller said.

Tyler Davis had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Robert Williams added 15 points and Admon Gilder had 13 points for the Aggies, who shot 45 percent from the field, including 53 percent in the second half.

Texas A&M (7-3) had its three-game winning streak snapped.

The Aggies mounted a rally over the final 5 minutes, using an 18-0 run to close within 65-63 with 22 seconds left on a 3-pointer by DJ Hogg.

“It demonstrates that we have the ability if we show effort on both ends of the court to win games against really good teams,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “Arizona was better than us for the majority of the game.”

But Rawle Alkins hit two free throws with 15 seconds left to put the Wildcats up by four.

“After the first one, I felt comfortable,” Alkins said. “Coach trusted me and Lauri to make the play happen.”

Tonny Trocha-Morelos missed a 3-pointer, and Davis missed the ensuing putback, allowing Simmons to grab the rebound and dribble out the clock.

Arizona ended the first half with a 9-0 run led by Alkins’ five points to take a 41-28 lead and carried that momentum into the second half, pushing the lead to as many as 22 points with a 17-8 spurt over the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Texas A&M didn’t hit a field goal over the last 5:17 of the first half and shot 3 of 10 with eight turnovers to start the second half.

“For a large portion of the game, that was our best effort because we were playing against a really good team as well,” Miller said.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: The Wildcats have continued to play well since losing to No. 8 Gonzaga on Dec. 3. Arizona defended well, forcing 14 turnovers and converting them into 18 points. The Wildcats were aggressive and attacked the paint, scoring 32 points.

Texas A&M: The Aggies are still looking for a marquee win after falling to 0-3 against the Pac-12 this season. The Aggies allowed Arizona’s post players to control down low until the final 10 minutes and couldn’t take advantage of 15 offensive rebounds, scoring 13 second-chance points.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Arizona: The Wildcats could move up a couple spots after their fourth straight win.

Texas A&M: The Aggies, who were receiving votes to start the season, will likely remain without votes.

JACKSON-CARTWRIGHT UPDATE

Arizona junior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who missed his fifth straight game Saturday with a high ankle sprain, is closer to returning, Miller said.

“We are anxious to get him back,” Miller said. “He is moving in the direction of coming back. If we can have a couple good weeks, we might get him back a little more to the beginning of the conference season.”

UP NEXT

Arizona: Hosts New Mexico on Tuesday before taking 10 days off ahead of Pac-12 play, which starts Dec. 30 at California.

Texas A&M: Hosts Saint Francis (Pa.) on Wednesday before an eight-day break ahead the start of SEC play Dec. 29 against Tennessee.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Texas A&M gets four-star 2017 guard Savion Flagg

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Texas A&M landed an impact perimeter commitment on Wednesday night as four-star guard Savion Flagg committed to the Aggies.

The 6-foot-6 Flagg can play a bit of both guard spots and he’s coming off of a breakout summer in which he elevated to No. 57 in the country in the Rivals Class of 2017 national rankings.

The addition of Flagg is a good one for head coach Billy Kennedy, as Flagg can make plays with the ball in his hands and has good size when he handles the ball. Flagg can also defend multiple spots on the perimeter and he has a chance to be an immediate impact player in the SEC.

Flagg joins four-star guard T.J. Starks and three-star forward Isiah Jasey in Texas A&M’s Class of 2017.

Texas A&M gets commitment from in-state three-star 2017 center

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Texas A&M has recruited a lot of local players the last few classes and that trend continued Monday night with the addition of 6-foot-9 center Isiah Jasey. The native of Killeen, Texas is considered a three-star prospect from Rivals.com in the Class of 2017.

A 240-pound big man who can rebound and protect the rim, Jasey is solid finishing inside, but he doesn’t have much range and isn’t good from the free-throw line. Jasey will take some time to develop, but he has the size and athleticism to eventually make a difference for the Aggies.

Jasey joins three-star guard T.J. Starks, also a native of Texas, in the Aggies’ Class of 2017 recruiting efforts. Recruiting in the state of Texas has been especially interesting with the addition of Jamie Dixon at TCU and Chris Beard at Texas Tech. The Aggies also lost assistant coach Kyle Keller to Stephen F. Austin as well.

Recruiting of in-state kids will be an interesting race with Baylor, SMU, Texas and Texas A&M all doing so well recently and those other schools likely seeing an uptick in recruiting since they have new coaches.