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Texas A&M erases deficit, beats Missouri 68-59

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) There wasn't much of a size difference between the biggest and smallest Texas A&M players on the court against Missouri on Saturday night, so Aggies coach Billy Kennedy changed his defensive strategy at halftime. The Aggies started switching screens at every position, and that helped them erase a 12-point, second-half deficit and beat the Tigers 68-59.

''We were forced to play small pretty much all night,'' Kennedy said. ''We were switching ball screens, and that threw them off a little bit, especially their young guards, young perimeter guys. We were fortunate it gave them some problems.''

Wendell Mitchell scored 20 points to help Texas A&M (9-13, 2-8 Southeastern Conference) end a six-game conference losing streak. Christian Mekowulu added 15 points and 10 rebounds, TJ Starks scored 15 and Savion Flagg finished with 12 points.

The Aggies were missing forwards Josh Nebo, who had posted double-doubles in points and rebounds in two of his last three games, and John Walker. Kennedy said Nebo has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee and Walker was ill.

Missouri (11-11, 2-8 SEC) was also shorthanded. The Tigers' second- and third-leading scorers did not play. Sophomore forward Jeremiah Tilmon missed the game because of lingering pain from emergency wisdom teeth removal on Wednesday. Sophomore guard Mark Smith missed his fifth straight game after spraining his ankle on Jan. 23.

Missouri opened a 37-25 lead when Torrence Watson made a 3-pointer with 17:39 left in the game.

''We've been down before,'' Mitchell said. ''We just had to play a little harder and execute on defense, honestly. I felt like we came out and executed defensively.''

The Tigers couldn't solve the switching defense, as their guards dribbled into traffic and committed nine second-half turnovers.

''If they're switching, let's get the ball inside to our bigs and make a play. . It just didn't happen,'' Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said.

Starks broke down Missouri's defense with drives to the basket. He found Flagg outside the 3-point arc in transition, and Flagg's shot gave Texas A&M the lead at 46-44 with 7:23 left. The Aggies pulled away with the help of 14-of-17 shooting from the foul line.

Javon Pickett led Missouri with 15 points, and Watson and Jordan Geist each scored 12.

''We let them get their head up out of the water, and they kept going,'' Watson said. ''We gave them a chance. We should have put our foot down.''

COMING UP SMALL

Missouri junior forward Reed Nikko made his first career start and gave a solid effort, with eight points and two blocked shots, but he fouled out after 19 minutes. Nobody else could fill the void inside. Kevin Puryear scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds. Mitchell Smith and K.J. Santos combined for zero points and one rebound. The Aggies outrebounded the Tigers 34-25.

Missouri's aimlessness on offense was illustrated by its lack of free throws. The Tigers attempted only four.

BIG PICTURE

Missouri: This was the second time in SEC play that the Tigers squandered a double-digit second-half lead at home. On Jan. 26, Missouri led LSU by 14 points with just over two minutes left in regulation and lost in overtime.

Texas A&M: For just the fourth time this season, Starks wasn't in the starting lineup. He contributed little until the final seconds of the first half, when he hit a 3-pointer to cut the Aggies' deficit to 30-21. That seemed to give him a boost, as he scored nine points in the second half.

''TJ played well coming off the bench,'' Kennedy said. ''He did a good job sharing the ball, and he did a good job on defense on Geist. Last time, Geist hurt us so much. Him and Chris Collins did a really good job guarding Geist.''

UP NEXT

Missouri: The Tigers face Arkansas on Tuesday at home.

Texas A&M: The Aggies play host to Georgia on Tuesday.

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Key Players
S. Flagg
J. Geist
32.5 Min. Per Game 32.5
13.7 Pts. Per Game 13.7
3.2 Ast. Per Game 3.2
4.8 Reb. Per Game 4.8
45.6 Field Goal % 42.2
28.4 Three Point % 36.8
60.4 Free Throw % 74.4
+ 2 Xavier Pinson made layup, assist by Torrence Watson 5.0
  Bad pass turnover on T.J. Starks, stolen by Kevin Puryear 12.0
  Defensive rebound by Brandon Mahan 40.0
  Javon Pickett missed 3-pt. jump shot, blocked by Brandon Mahan 42.0
+ 1 Wendell Mitchell made 2nd of 2 free throws 49.0
+ 1 Wendell Mitchell made 1st of 2 free throws 49.0
  Personal foul on Javon Pickett 49.0
+ 2 Jordan Geist made dunk, assist by Xavier Pinson 59.0
  Offensive rebound by Xavier Pinson 1:00
  Torrence Watson missed 3-pt. jump shot 1:02
+ 1 Savion Flagg made 2nd of 2 free throws 1:09
Team Stats
Points 68 59
Field Goals 24-49 (49.0%) 24-57 (42.1%)
3-Pointers 6-18 (33.3%) 8-27 (29.6%)
Free Throws 14-17 (82.4%) 3-4 (75.0%)
Total Rebounds 34 25
Offensive 9 8
Defensive 23 15
Team 2 2
Assists 6 14
Steals 7 7
Blocks 2 2
Turnovers 16 13
Fouls 11 16
Technicals 0 0
20 PTS, 6 REB, 1 AST
15 PTS, 2 REB, 2 AST
12T
away team logo Texas A&M 9-13 214768
home team logo Missouri 11-11 302959
Team Stats
away team logo Texas A&M 9-13 70.4 PPG 40.1 RPG 11.8 APG
home team logo Missouri 11-11 67.2 PPG 38.4 RPG 11.1 APG
Key Players
1
W. Mitchell G 13.0 PPG 4.2 RPG 2.3 APG 39.4 FG%
4
J. Pickett G 7.7 PPG 3.3 RPG 1.5 APG 36.6 FG%
Top Scorers
W. Mitchell G 20 PTS 6 REB 1 AST
J. Pickett G 15 PTS 2 REB 2 AST
49.0 FG% 42.1
33.3 3PT FG% 29.6
82.4 FT% 75.0
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
W. Mitchell 20 6 1 8/14 1/4 3/3 3 32 0 0 3 3 3
C. Mekowulu 15 10 0 5/9 0/0 5/6 3 31 0 1 2 4 6
S. Flagg 12 5 0 4/6 2/3 2/3 0 33 0 0 3 1 4
B. Mahan 6 4 1 2/3 1/2 1/2 1 31 3 1 1 1 3
C. Collins 0 5 0 0/5 0/4 0/0 0 24 1 0 0 0 5
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
W. Mitchell 20 6 1 8/14 1/4 3/3 3 32 0 0 3 3 3
C. Mekowulu 15 10 0 5/9 0/0 5/6 3 31 0 1 2 4 6
S. Flagg 12 5 0 4/6 2/3 2/3 0 33 0 0 3 1 4
B. Mahan 6 4 1 2/3 1/2 1/2 1 31 3 1 1 1 3
C. Collins 0 5 0 0/5 0/4 0/0 0 24 1 0 0 0 5
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
T. Starks 15 1 3 5/10 2/4 3/3 2 28 2 0 6 0 1
M. French 0 1 1 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 4 0 0 0 0 1
J. Brown 0 0 0 0/1 0/0 0/0 0 7 0 0 0 0 0
J. Chandler 0 0 0 0/1 0/1 0/0 2 10 1 0 1 0 0
J. Nebo - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A. Gilder - - - - - - - - - - - - -
F. Byers - - - - - - - - - - - - -
C. Alo - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Walker III - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E. Vaughn - - - - - - - - - - - - -
L. McGhee - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Z. Walker - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 68 32 6 24/49 6/18 14/17 11 200 7 2 16 9 23
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
J. Pickett 15 2 2 6/10 3/6 0/0 3 30 1 0 3 0 2
J. Geist 12 3 4 4/8 2/6 2/2 0 33 0 0 1 0 3
T. Watson 12 4 2 5/13 2/9 0/0 4 31 0 0 2 0 4
R. Nikko 8 3 0 4/7 0/0 0/0 5 19 1 2 2 3 0
K. Puryear 7 7 0 3/7 1/2 0/0 0 25 1 0 2 3 4
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
J. Pickett 15 2 2 6/10 3/6 0/0 3 30 1 0 3 0 2
J. Geist 12 3 4 4/8 2/6 2/2 0 33 0 0 1 0 3
T. Watson 12 4 2 5/13 2/9 0/0 4 31 0 0 2 0 4
R. Nikko 8 3 0 4/7 0/0 0/0 5 19 1 2 2 3 0
K. Puryear 7 7 0 3/7 1/2 0/0 0 25 1 0 2 3 4
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB
X. Pinson 5 3 6 2/9 0/3 1/2 0 28 3 0 1 2 1
R. Suggs 0 0 0 0/1 0/0 0/0 0 7 1 0 1 0 0
Mi. Smith 0 1 0 0/1 0/1 0/0 2 18 0 0 1 0 1
K. Santos 0 0 0 0/1 0/0 0/0 2 9 0 0 0 0 0
C. VanLeer - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A. Wolf - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Smith - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Ma. Smith - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Porter - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Tilmon - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E. Yerkes - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B. Ford - - - - - - - - - - - - -
P. Braun - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 59 23 14 24/57 8/27 3/4 16 200 7 2 13 8 15