COLLEGE STATION – A Texas A&M player shouting to his family after the game put it best.
“That one felt good,” he said. “I finally got that bad taste out of my mouth from last year.”
Texas A&M came out like it wanted to win this game, and eventually did. Baylor dominated Texas A&M last year in Waco thanks to strong interior play. The script was completely flipped when the Bears traveled to College Station on Saturday.
Sloppy play and missed opportunities doomed No. 16 Baylor (8-2) in an 80-61 loss to No. 24 Texas A&M (9-2) that was not as close as the final score.
Let’s be clear: Baylor has no one but itself to blame for this game. The Bears were lackluster from the opening whistle and could not muster a fight against a Texas A&M squad that was calm, cool and collected for 40 minutes.
Texas A&M was prepared to fight, and fight it did. Baylor turned over the ball 16 times, which the Aggies turned into 25 points. The Bears scored only 22 points in the paint, compared to 38 for Texas A&M. The Aggies assisted on 23 of their made baskets, compared to 15 for Baylor.
Simply put, Texas A&M took a lead 13 seconds in, and the game was over from there.
Baylor was outscored 19-6 over the first couple minutes of the game and did nothing to stop it. The Aggies shot 60 percent in the first half, including 54.5 percent from the 3-point line. However, the most important number was not shooting, but what happened after the shots.
Baylor getting outrebounded 44-41 does not sound bad in the grand scheme of things, but the Bears failed to be a factor on the boards. Texas A&M used a team effort to rebound 19 of its 33 missed shots – well over half.
“I’ve looked at the stats, and the one area I thought coming in we’d do much better is the rebound department,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “That’s uncharacteristic of our team. You really have to credit A&M for competing, getting 50-50 balls. When shots don’t fall, sometimes other stuff lacks.”
Texas A&M wing Danuel House was the star of the first half, with 14 points on 3-for-4 from 3-point range in the period. He showed the length and disruptiveness on defense that made him a coveted transfer prospect from Houston. Jalen Jones added 17 points of his own, while freshman center Tyler Davis had 15 points on six shots.
House completely outplayed his matchup on the other end, NBA prospect Taurean Prince. The latter shot only 2-for-8 from the field, one coming as the final buzzer expired. He settled for 3-pointers on numerous occasions.
“We have to do a better job getting him in a position to score,” Drew said.
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy confirmed that the Aggie game plan centered on trying to get Prince and Gathers out of position, which it did exceptionally well. The seniors combined for 6-for-18 from the field and seven turnovers on Saturday night.
“It’s a resume builder,” House said after the game. “That’s two ranked teams playing each other hard. When it’s time for the committee to look back at it, this is a good win for our school.”
And a missed opportunity for Baylor.