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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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A&M slips past Alabama to finish season on a three game win streak

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Photo by Photo by Kevin Chou

Freshman guard T.J. Starks contributed 17 points to the Aggies’ victory over Kentucky.

The Texas A&M men’s basketball team (20-11, 9-9 SEC) defeated Alabama (17-14, 8-10 SEC), 68-66, on Saturday on Senior Day and the team’s season finale.

A&M led the majority of the game, however, things got testy in the last minute of the contest, when Sexton and TJ Starks exchanged words after a foul on Admon Gilder, prompting Starks to push Collin Sexton in the head. Starks received a Flagrant 2 for the action and was ejected from the game. Sexton received a personal foul for taunting and Gilder went to the line and shot four free throws.

“We just have to keep our composure, it was an up and down game from the foul calls to referee calling fouls that weren’t fouls,” Gilder said.

A&M then fouled the Crimson Tide on back-to-back possessions and they netted four of their five free throws, narrowing their deficit to 66-63. Alabama then turned the ball over and the Aggies were able to evade the Alabama press before D.J. Hogg was fouled.

“He’s been struggling but he’s continuing to practice hard and he’s shot 100 percent in the past few games so we felt confident once D.J. got the call [to shoot two free throws].”

Hogg netted both shots with one second left to give the Aggies a five-point lead., effectively sealing the Aggie win, 68-66.

Prior to the game, seniors Duane Wilson and Tonny Trocha-Morelos were recognized, prompting a standing ovation in Reed Arena. Trocha-Morelos notched his first start since Jan. 6, and finished the game with 7 points in 10 minutes.

Tyler Davis led the Aggies in points and established himself as a force in the paint early in the game and didn’t let up, finishing the game with 20 points and 10 rebounds on 9-of-11 shooting from the field.

The Aggies were able to swing the ball around and find open shots in the first half, however, they struggled to convert their opportunities. The maroon and white finished the half shooting 32 percent (10-of-31) from the field and 20 percent (1-of-11).

The first half was sloppy from both sides and the two teams combined for 13 turnovers. The erratic play led to a combined 16 fouls. The Aggies drew nine fouls however, struggled to sink their shots from behind the charity stripe. A&M made just 30 percent (3-of-10) of their free throw attempts in the half. A&M trailed 25-24 at the half.

“At halftime I said ‘we need to go out there and generate some energy and have some fun,” Kennedy said. “We went out and made a couple shots and were up four and eventually got up by 10 or 11.”

Kennedy’s words seemed to strike a chord with the A&M players, and the Aggies scored 44 points in the second half.

Alabama guard Collin Sexton found his rhythm in the second half and gave the Aggies trouble. Sexton finished the game with 21 points including 11-of-15 from the free throw line.

The Aggies have had much success in their rebounding throughout the year and that showed today, as the maroon and white outrebounded Alabama 46-40.

“They [A&M] rebounded the ball well, they’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. They have a lot of size [down low],” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said.

Johnson also praised D.J. Hogg after the game, and said that he was the biggest difference from the two teams’ first matchup in Tuscaloosa.

“He’s a high level player,” Johnson said. “He got hot on us in the second half. Those 11 points, and especially that three in the corner, that was a big shot.”

Though it wasn’t pretty, the Aggies defeated a solid Alabama side, which Kennedy was pleased with.

“To win an ugly game, I’ll take it every time,” Kennedy said. “In our last 13 games, we’re 9 and 4 and I don’t think a lot of teams can say that so I’m excited about that. The thing is, I really think we can play better.”

The A&M win clinches a 9-9 final SEC record and no lower than the eight-seed in the SEC Tournament. The Aggies will return to action in the SEC Tournament on Thursday.

Past that, the win likely gets rid of any doubt that the Aggies won’t make the NCAA Tournament, at least in Kennedy’s eyes.

“With 20 teams and the schedule that we played, I think we’re an NCAA Tournament team,” Kennedy said.

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