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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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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Caruso celebrates his 21st birthday with a perfect shooting night


Tanner Garza — THE BATTALION

On his 21th birthday, junior guard Alex Caruso celebrated with a win that placed his Aggies comfortably into third place in the SEC, despite a rocky start from Danuel House.
A&M defeated Auburn 80-55 behind four double-digit scorers, giving the Aggies their 20th victory of the season — a milestone head coach Billy Kennedy hadn’t yet reached with the program.
“Any time you get 20 wins in Division 1 basketball it’s a good year,” Kennedy said. “We aren’t finished yet, and we’ve got a lot of basketball ahead of us. I think we can get better, and I still don’t think we played our best.”
Caruso shot perfectly, going 5-for-5 (4-for-4 from three) and ending the night with 14 points. Kennedy took out the birthday boy with just a few minutes left, and the 12th Man honored him by chanting the happy birthday song.
Leading in scoring for A&M was Jalen Jones, who tallied 19. Contributing at the block alongside him was Kourtney Roberson, who earned a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. The two aided the Aggies in outrebounding the Tigers 44 to 30.
One of House’s best performances came against Auburn on Jan. 27, which resulted in a 71-61 A&M victory amid what turned out to be a six-game winning streak. The junior transfer dropped six 3-pointers on the Tigers, and it was the first time all season he garnered more than four. In the end, House shot 7-for-10 (6-for-7 from three) and led the Aggies with 22 points.
Despite his recent success, House headed to the locker room at halftime shooting just 3-for-13 from the field, with an empty 0-for-7 outing from 3-point-range. However, the Aggies held the Tigers to just 8-for-25 shooting, and Jalen Jones punished them with 15 points, seven of which came from the penalty stripe.
Auburn (12-17, 4-12 SEC) came into the contest somberly. In the days leading up to the Tigers visit to College Station, Texas, Antoine Mason — Auburn’s second leading scorer — took a temporary leave to attend to his father, former NBA player Anthony Mason. It was reported later that he passed away, and the Tigers were without Mason Saturday night. Before the game, A&M honored him with a moment of silence.
“I want to thank the Texas A&M administration and the basketball program for a really first class gesture before the game,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “That was very, very kind, very thoughtful and it meant a lot to us. It makes me proud that Texas A&M is part of the SEC family, because that’s what family does. The other thing that their equipment staff did, was they got these pins for us, and they embroidered them on our players jerseys … Those are the kind of stories you don’t hear in sports, when teams are competing like that … That was pretty special and it meant a lot to our team.”
What eventually put the game away was a late spark from House, who hit two consecutive threes — one putting the Aggies up by 20 with 5:47 left and another at 4:33, giving A&M a 69-44 advantage.
Since defeating Texas Tech 98-54 in 2008, A&M saw its largest conference victory. With two games remaining in the regular season, the Aggies already have their first 20-win season since 2011.
“It feels great,” Jones said. “I’ve never won 20 games since I’ve been in college. I think this is a fun team to play on and that’s a great accomplishment. We’ve got bigger things to look forward to and we’re going to keep playing hard throughout the season and try to win these last two games.”
The Aggies (20-8, 11-5 SEC) will have the chance to build off their momentum at 8 p.m. Tuesday when they travel to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators.

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