College Station, Tex.--Balanced scoring, a strong rebounding effort and accurate shooting carried the Texas A&M?Aggies to an 81-62 SEC basketball victory over the Auburn Tigers on Saturday.
Five Aggies scored in double figures as Texas A&M hit 31-45 field goals (68.9 percent) including 9-14 three-pointers.
Mustapha Heron led the Tigers in scoring with 20 points. His team hit 23-67 field goals (34.3 percent). Auburn made 11-34 three-pointers.
Ronnie Johnson came off the bench to score a dozen points for the Tigers and Danjel Purifoy was next with nine points.
For Texas A&M sophomore guard Admon Gilder scored 17 points while freshman Robert Williams contributed 13 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots.
Bryce Brown defends against Admon Gilder on Saturday at Reed Arena.
The Aggies out-rebounded the Tigers 37-28, which helped them overcome 19 turnovers, seven more than Auburn committed.
Auburn was 5-7 at the foul line while the Aggies made 10-18 foul shots.
Auburn, which is on a three-game losing streak, is 16-11 overall and 5-9 in the SEC. The Aggies improved to 14-12 overall and 6-8 in the league.
“A&M started in a two-three zone and that bothered us,” said Coach Bruce Pearl, who noted the Tigers expected the Aggies to play man-to-man defense.
“They have played 70 percent man-to-man, but coming off a short rest rather than dealing with all the man-to-man stuff we do they said ‘let’s just play zone in a short prep’ and there is no question in my mind why they did it.
“Our starters really did not really execute early against their zone and obviously that was disappointing,” the coach said. “It got a little better throughout the game, but you hold an Auburn team that averages in the mid 70s to upper 70s to 62 points, obviously the zone was really good...It slowed the tempo of the game and it was effective.”
Pearl noted that Heron, who hit 10-17 field goals, was the only Tiger to make at least half of his shots, a major contrast to the Aggies. “They shot 69 percent and we are not going to win if teams continue to shoot those type of percentages against us so defensively we continue to struggle.”
Auburn got off to a slow start offensively and never warmed up in the first half. The Tigers hit just 10-34 shots in the opening 20 minutes as they trailed 41-27 at intermission.
The Aggies shot very well in the first half, making 17-25 field goals (68.0 percent) and 6-9 threes. Combine that with a 20-15 rebounding edge and the Aggies built the lead to as many as 19 points at 3:21 mark of the first half.
Johnson, who was 3-3 on treys in the first half, led the Tigers in scoring with nine points while Gilder led the Aggies with 12 points.
The Tigers cut the lead to 11 points at 43-32 in the second half on a three-pointer by Purifoy, but that was as close as the Tigers would get in the period.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Freshman center Austin Wiley left the game after being hurt in the second half. The postgame from Pearl noted the freshman could have returned if needed late in the contest. Wiley finished with two points and two rebounds.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Bryce Brown replaced T.J. Dunans in the starting lineup. Both players struggled to score. Brown was 2-8 from the field while scoring six points. Dunans was 1-7 from the field while finishing with three points.
Stat of the Game: The Aggies made 14-20 second half field goals (70 percent) to thwart Auburn’s efforts at coming back.
Up Next: The Tigers play at LSU on Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. with TV coverage on the SEC Network.