COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M finally was able to exhale at home.
“It felt good to back in the flow of things,” said forward Josh Nebo, who led the Aggies with 18 points.
A&M snapped a three-game home losing streak and defeated Missouri 68-51 on Tuesday night.
The Aggies (11-10, 5-4 Southeastern Conference) swept the season series 2-0 over the Tigers (10-12, 2-7 SEC) following A&M’s 66-64 victory at Missouri on January 21. Missouri on Tuesday scored 18 first-half points – its season low in a half – in falling behind by seven at the break.
A&M led 18-14 with five minutes remaining in the first half before finishing the half with a flourish – at least compared with both teams’ poor shooting over the first 15 minutes. A&M guard Wendell Mitchell smoothly drained a 3-pointer from the left corner and was fouled on the play with 3:15 to go before halftime.
Mitchell missed the resulting free throw, but the Aggies grabbed the offensive rebound, and drained more time off the clock. A&M added a dunk by Andre Gordon and a layup by Savion Flagg in the final 1:37 to grab a 25-18 lead at the break.
Four minutes into the second half, Missouri closed to 30-29 with 16:05 left, before the Aggies outscored the Tigers 13-2 in a little more than four-minute span. In that time A&M guard Quenton Jackson made a 3-pointer, collected a dunk and sank 3 of 4 free throws.
Both teams shot poorly from the field (35% the Aggies compared with 31% for the Tigers), but A&M held a 49-30 rebounding advantage.
“The lessons these guys are learning relative to how hard we have to play … that’s good for this team and good for our program’s future,” A&M first-year coach Buzz Williams said of putting away the game in the second half.
Mitchell Smith led the Tigers with nine points. The Aggies’ Emanuel Miller led all rebounders with 13.
“We missed quite a few shots in the corners,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Marti said of the Tigers’ biggest drawback on Tuesday. “If that’s what you do, you’ve got to knock them down. And Miller and Nebo did a great job of being physical – those two guys set the tone.”
Miller also scored 10 points and said of his first career double-double, “Just getting a ‘w’ in the column, that’s what’s most important. We did a great job of coming out and competing.”
Missouri: Halfway through SEC play the Tigers continue to disappoint under Martin in his third season. Martin led Tennessee to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in his third season with the Volunteers in 2013-14, but the Tigers are long shots to make the postseason at this point.
Texas A&M: Williams has five more league wins than some predicted when the Aggies were losing consecutive games to Harvard, Temple and Fairfield in late November and early December. While the NCAA Tournament or even the National Invitation Tournament appears a stretch for A&M midway through league competition, the idea that the postseason is a possibility seems a victory for the Aggies.
A&M guard Wendell Mitchell collected his first block of the season in a spectacular manner, in swatting away a Kobe Brown attempted layup a little more than two minutes into the game.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Aggies shot more than twice as many free throws as the Tigers (25-37 to 14-18). A&M made only 67.6% of its free throws to Missouri’s 77.8%, but had 19 more opportunities at the line.
HE SAID IT
“When you work really hard, you tend to have confidence in what you do.”
Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams
The Tigers host Arkansas on Saturday.
The Aggies play at South Carolina on Saturday.
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