The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggies flash potential with win over Savannah State in season opener

Photo by Photo by Jesse Everett

Junior Josh Nebo drives past a defender to dunk on the Savannah State defense.

Texas A&M men’s basketball came out with a 98-83 win in their season opener against Savannah State, taking advantage of their opponents mistakes and proving to be a team that is dominant in the paint.
It was obvious from the start that this is a very different team than last year. A&M started a small lineup with guards TJ Starks, Chris Collins and Jay Jay Chandler, with forwards Savion Flagg and Christian Mekowulu. Returning starting guard Admon Gilder and transfer guard Wendell Mitchell did not play due to knee injuries.
After going back-and-forth for a minute and a half, the Aggies opened up the season with a three-point shot from Collins. Savannah State tried to appeal to their style of play early by launching threes on nearly every possession, but never hit their stride throughout the game.
The Tigers brought a high-tempo offense that looked to capitalize on mistakes from A&M, through turnovers and creating three-point opportunities. Savannah State did not boast a big roster, but instead used a smaller roster that could run up and down the court to get open shots throughout the game. The Tigers only scored in the paint twice in the first half.
A&M took their time to create shots early on, moving the ball well around the perimeter and in the paint to draw a foul or find open shots. Starks and Brandon Mahan took a lot of three’s early in the contest, but couldn’t find a rhythm. Starks attempted five three’s in the first half but could not get any to fall.
A&M took advantage of the Tigers’ poor ball handling and distribution, by causing turnovers and subsequently scoring off the turnovers. In the first half A&M scored 15 points off of turnovers and 10 in the fast break.
Junior forward Josh Nebo made his presence felt midway through the first half with four dunks in a row that provided A&M with a rhythm that lasted the entire half. Nebo established himself early as one of the more physical players A&M can rely on this season, by using his athleticism to rebound, score in the paint, and finish second-chance baskets.
Redshirt freshman forward John Walker III also had an impressive performance in the first half. Walker had three made shots down low and a single three-pointer in the corner to put up 10 points up in his career debut.
At the half A&M led 53-37, with a bulk of Savannah State’s points coming from three-pointers. However the Tigers showed that their shooting was just not going to be enough, going just 9-30 beyond the arc.
The Aggies also struggled with turnovers, having 13 in the first half alone.
“Some of it is style [of play], first game, and it was just bad decisions,” Kennedy said. “TJ Starks can’t have 9 turnovers. … You can’t give the ball up that much.”
By the end of the game, the Aggies racked up 24 turnovers on the night, which was higher than any game they had last year.
The second half was dominated by open shots, easy finishes, and a dominant performance from Flagg. The sophomore forward caught the spotlight with 24 points and 16 rebounds– setting a career high in both categories.
“I give all the credit to my teammates getting me open, believing in me,” Flagg said. “Coach Kennedy put me in the right spot.”
After only playing nine minutes in the first half, Flagg exploded for a big night that had him scoring everywhere on the court. Flagg utilized his size to create shots and finish, as Savannah State did not have a match, physically, for him.
A&M also showed that there was a lot of room for improvement and intensity. The pace wore on the Aggies, who had a bigger roster than Savannah State, and couldn’t keep up as much as the Tigers were pushing. The three-point dominating style never really got off the ground, hitting only eight of 38 of the shots attempted during the game. A&M ended up scoring the majority of the points in the paint, with 58 points scored down low. There showed a lot of first game struggles in ball handling, decision making and simple execution offensively.
Throughout the second half A&M found a rhythm, but couldn’t pull away for more than a 19 point lead. Savannah State hit some unlikely shots and got sent to the free throw line to keep the game within a thin margin . The Aggies were still able to come out on top, with a 98-83 win over the Tigers.
A&M will play Friday against University of California-Irvine at Reed Arena. Tipoff is set to begin at 8:30 p.m.

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