Looking for a statement win to help turn the Aggies’ season around, Texas A&M men’s basketball welcomed Kansas State to Reed Arena as a part of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge on Saturday.
After a dominant second half, the Aggies secured the win 65-53 to improve to 8-10
(1-5 SEC) as K-State falls to 15-5 (5-2 Big 12).
“It was a great win against a good Kansas State team,” A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said. “Really proud of our guys for hanging in there this week. Pushed some different challenges and they had the right focus, we had a good performance today.”
Kansas State is tied at the top of the Big 12 with Kansas after winning five straight Big 12 games and the Aggies are tied for last in the SEC. The teams were even at 18 with 8:15 left in the first half before Dean Wade and Kansas State went on a 10-2 run. The Aggies weathered the run and cut the Wildcat lead to four points going into the half.
A&M came out firing in the second half, ripping off an 18-6 run in the first 10 minutes, thanks in part to A&M junior guard Wendell Mitchell. Mitchell had two early fouls leading to limited playing time in the first half. Mitchell scored 22 points, all in the second half, to lead the Aggies to a 16-point second half lead.
“I was keeping my energy up on the bench in the first half,” Mitchell said. “I just wanted to come in and be solid and do things the coaches have preached to us. I have confidence in all of my teammates. They came in and kept the energy high and played their hardest.”
In addition to Mitchell’s second half points, the Aggies got big contributions from sophomore guard TJ Starks and sophomore forward Savion Flagg. Starks had 12 points and six assists, while Flagg had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Four players on Kansas State scored 50 of the Wildcats 53 points. Senior forward Dean Wade led the team with 17 points. The Wildcats shot just 33% from the field and 23 percent from three-point range while scoring 25 points off of the Aggies’ 20 turnovers.
“The first half we didn’t make the plays we needed to,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “Obviously our defense has been what we’ve hung our hat on, but they shot 51% and 40% from three. You’ve got to be emotionally ready to play every game.”
Sophomore guard Jay Jay Chandler didn’t play in today’s win due to a minor shoulder injury, which allowed junior guard Mark French to play five key minutes in the first half. French was put on scholarship earlier this week and the five minutes he logged in today’s win was the longest he’s played in any game in his career.
A&M will be back in action on Wednesday as it hosts LSU at Reed Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.