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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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Men’s basketball’s huge second half leads to blowout of Central Arkansas

Fifth+year+guard+Quenton+Jackson+%283%29+runs+down+the+court+in+Reed+Arena+on+Nov.+30%2C+2021.
Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Fifth year guard Quenton Jackson (3) runs down the court in Reed Arena on Nov. 30, 2021.

Texas A&M men’s basketball wrapped up its non-conference schedule in a blowout win over Central Arkansas.
It looked like it would be a last-possession type of game well into the second half before graduate guard Quenton Jackson and his teammates took over the game and began to build a big lead. Going into halftime, A&M led by one point, but outsourcing the Bears 50-25 in the second half won the Aggies their four-straight contest heading into the new year.
Coach Buzz Williams said the team’s second-half performance saw all aspects of what they need to emulate with conference play beginning.
“The most important thing going forward, other than those stats, is whether or not we can play with a high level of energy, a high level of care and a high level of discipline,” Williams said. “I thought we were really good from that regard in the second half, and too up-and-down in the first half.”
The first all-time meeting between A&M and Central Arkansas began with the Aggies getting off to a fast start on the defensive end in the first few minutes. But after A&M scored the first six points, UCA went on an 18-0 run to take the lead thanks to its rebounding and ability to get second-chance points. Coach Williams subsequently went to his bench out of a timeout.
A&M went scoreless for over five minutes and 0-for-9 from the field before sophomore forward Henry Coleman III hit a pair of free throws to cut UCA’s lead to 10 and finally end the Bears’ run. However, UCA stayed hot from the three-point line to counter A&M’s attempts at establishing a presence in the paint.
Williams said the Aggies gave up too many open looks early in the game, which can be converted even by teams that don’t typically shoot great.
“We gave up too many [uncontested shots] in the first half, way too many,” Williams said. “When you have that long of a close-out, it doesn’t really matter if you can shoot or not, it’s an uncontested shot.”
With just over seven minutes to go in the first half, the Aggies were able to cut the score to 26-21 as sophomore guard Marcus Williams and Jackson found some rhythm offensively. Jackson had an emphatic slam dunk off a turnover to cut the deficit to three, and Williams converted an and-one that tied things up and capped a 16-0 A&M run. He ended the night with 16 points, eight assists and four steals — all season-highs.
Both teams went back-and-forth to close out the first half as A&M led 35-34 going into the locker room. Jackson led A&M in first-half scoring with 10 as three different Aggies logged multiple steals. Marcus Williams had two of his own to go with eight first-half points.
A&M and UCA opened up the second half from the field with four straight scoring possessions and continued to play off each other over the opening minutes. A&M would lead 45-42 at the 13-minute mark as Jackson had another impressive slam and hit a pair of free throws to grab a four-point lead.
But UCA hit a three in transition to bring it back to one as they stayed around by going 56% from outside to that point in the game. At the halfway point in the second half, Jackson had 22 points after a few more buckets and free throws as the Aggies led by four.
Jackson said it was great to score so much, but that he’s more focused on how the team can play more consistently as the season progresses. He totaled a career-high 31 points and grabbed seven rebounds against the Bears.
“It’s cool, but I am more focused on what is coming when we get to conference play,” Jackson said. “I think our main problem is that we need to play with the same energy 100% of the time. We have points in the game where we just die down and get comfortable. I think we just need to figure out a way to play all 40 minutes.”
A&M separated a bit with a slam from junior guard Aaron Cash followed by a steal-and-score from Marcus Williams. At that point, the Aggies had scored 26 of their 58 points off 20 turnovers.
A three from sophomore guard Hassan Diarra and a dunk from junior guard Tyrece Radford grew the A&M lead to 10 with 5:30 left in the game. Marcus Williams logged the assist on Radford’s slam, his sixth of the night, which tied his season-high.
A Jackson three from the top of the key off the dribble made the score 68-55, and he finished an alley-oop on the next possession to put the Aggies up by 15. That lead quickly ballooned to 22 points as Diarra and freshman guard Wade Taylor IV salted away the game with a couple of threes.
The final score read 85-59, giving A&M its 11th win of the year as the schedule flips to SEC play. The Aggies return to the court on Tuesday, Jan. 4 at Georgia to kick off their conference schedule. Opening tip is set for 6 p.m. on ESPNU.

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