Texas A&M wins Big 12 opener

With its 63-55 victory over Texas Tech Saturday night, the Texas A&M men's basketball squad won its first conference opener since 1995.

In front of 10,389 fans at A&M's Reed Arena, Billy Gillispie's team put on another praiseworthy performance that will undoubtedly have future Aggie opponents taking this group seriously.

Trailing 18-4 midway through the first half, the Aggies' (11-1) chances looked grim against Bobby Knight's Red Raiders. Leading Aggie scorer and rebounder Joseph Jones was on the bench early in foul trouble, picking up his third violation with 6:21 remaining in the first half.

Texas Tech's (8-7) first-half shots never seemed to miss. Martin Zeno and Jarrius Jackson combined for 27 points in the first half, going 11-of-15 shooting, while A&M missed 14 of its first 16 shots. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by A&M freshman Josh Carter seemed to give the Aggies some much-needed momentum going into the half; but Gillispie made it clear to his team in the locker room what he thought of their lack of toughness.

Aggie junior Acie Law would not give specifics on Gillispie's burning halftime words, but said: "Coach really got on us at halftime. They were getting a lot of easy shots and beating us to every loose ball. But we weren't going to quit. Our defense was the main reason we were able to buckle down and stop them."

The results were clear: the Aggies responded in the second half with a 12-0 run, taking a 37-36 lead with 13:50 left.

After the game, Gillispie described the halftime scene in the locker room: "It wasn't a speech. It was about those guys' heart. We hung in there. That was a very resilient effort, as tough as I've ever seen with the way things were going."

Texas A&M's second half defense was stifling. The Red Raiders missed five of their first six shots and committed three turnovers to start the second half. After the break, the Ags held Texas Tech to a measly 21 total points.

Knight commented on the Aggies' defense: "[The Aggies'] defensive pressure was good in the first half and it was better in the second half," Knight said. "... I think they just geared it up a little bit. Sometimes when that happens, maybe we reach this level in the first half and then they turn it up a little bit and maybe we slip up a little bit. I think that happened and that was a result of them turning it up and us not keeping pace with it."

Acie Law scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half. Dominique Kirk caught fire in the second half, nailing three 3-pointers. A&M freshman Josh Carter also contributed, adding 13 points for the Ags.

Saturday's victory puts A&M above .500 for the first time in Big 12 play, and second-year A&M coach Billy Gillispie is now 2-1 against Tech coach Bob Knight.

The Aggies continue conference play against Oklahoma State on Wednesday at 8pm in Stillwater, Ok.

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