Aggies Handle Cold-Shooting Tigers

Texas A&M took control in the second half on the way to an SEC basketball victory over the Auburn Tigers, who were short-handed for the matchup.

College Station, Tex.--Texas A&M used its strength on the boards and a cold shooting performance from Auburn to take an 80-55 SEC basketball victory on Saturday night vs. the slumping Tigers, who dropped a fourth straight game.

The Aggies won the rebounding battle 44-30 vs. the Tigers, who were unable to counter that with their three-point shooting. Auburn made just 3-17 threes and overall the visitors made just 35.4 percent of their field goals.

Texas A&M was 7-22 on threes and hit 46.8 percent of their field goals.

The Tigers played short-handed without second-leading scorer Antoine Mason, who was home with his family following the death of his father, Anthony Mason, who had been trying to recover after suffering a heart attack.

Auburn dropped to 12-17 overall and 4-12 in the SEC. The Aggies, who are making a strong push for an NCAA Tournament berth, improved their record to 20-8 and 11-5 in the SEC.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said, “What has to happen when you are a man down, guys have got to step up. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of that.”

“The biggest thing I focused on with the players is what an opportunity it was for everybody with Antoine not here,” said Pearl, who added, “It obviously didn’t happen.”

Commenting on the Tigers’ struggles, Pearl said the team is at the lowest point of the season. “The team has lost confidence. We played hard, but we are not competing, and there is a big difference. It is hard to compete, and value possessions at both ends of the floor, when you are not sure what you are playing for. I thought we could obviously competed more.”

K.T. Harrell led the Tigers in scoring with 18 points. The senior guard hit just 4-13 field goals and was 1-6 on treys as the Aggies geared their defense to stop Harrell.

No other Auburn player scored in double figures. Cinmeon Bowers and K.C. Ross-Miller finished the night with nine points apiece.

Four Aggies scored in double figures led by 19 points from Jalen Jones while Danuel House added 15. Alex Caruso, who was 4-4 from three-point range, finished with 14 points and four assists for the Aggies.

The Aggies jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never trailed. The home team led by as many as 11 points in the first half thanks to its domination of the boards. At intermission Texas A&M enjoyed a 28-16 rebounding advantage.

Pearl wasn’t shy about using his bench in the first 20 minutes, playing five subs, including walk-ons Devin Waddell and Cole Stockton.

Halftime Numbers: The Tigers made 8-25 shots for 32 percent and were just 1-8 on threes while hitting 11-18 free throws. The Aggies made 12-32 field goals for 37.5 percent along with 2-14 threes and 10-15 free throws. Bowers scored nine first half points for the Tigers and Harrell added six points, all at the foul line. Jones led the Aggies with 15 points.

Auburn was never able to make a run in the second half. Caruso hit a pair of three-pointers early in the period to boost the lead into double figures and it stayed there the rest of the night as the home team steadily built its margin to 25 points.

Pearl said the defensive game plan was to double cover the ball inside and give Caruso three-point looks, which the point guard took advantage of on Saturday night.

Each team finished with nine turnovers. Auburn hit 18-30 free throws while the Aggies made 19-29.

"Texas A&M is a good team, they run great stuff and they are organized," Pearl said. "They have a lot of different weapons. Obviously, if House and Jones are playing well it takes them to another level."

Pearl added, "Offensively, we struggled. When you don't have as many options we become pretty scoutable."

Worth Noting, Part 1: T.J. Lang made his second Auburn start. The freshman guard filled in for Antoine Mason, who is with his family in New York City after his father lost his battle to recover from a major heart attack. Pearl said that he thought Lang did a good job defensively defending House in the first half.

Worth Noting, Part 2: Texas A&M had a pre-game moment of silence in memory of Anthony Mason, a former NBA All-Star. Lang scored four points while adding two rebounds.

"It was really a first class gesture before the game," Pearl said. "It was really very, very kind, very, very thoughtful and it meant a lot to us. It kind of makes me feel proud that Texas A&M is part of the SEC family because that is what family does."

Worth Noting, Part 3: Cole Stockton, one of three walk-ons who played for the Tigers, hit a three-point field goal for his first points of the season.

Stat of the Game: The Aggies held a 29-21 advantage in defensive rebounds and a 15-9 edge in offensive rebounds.

Up Next: Auburn will travel to Columbia to play the Missouri Tigers on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

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