No. 21 Texas A&M beats Mississippi State

Published 11:00 am Thursday, January 7, 2016

STARKVILLE – Texas A&M guard Alex Caruso spent much of the first half on Wednesday night playing psychologist, telling his teammates to forget the early shooting woes and just keep pushing.

His reasoning was simple: It couldn’t get much worse.

He was right – just barely.

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Jalen Jones scored 11 points, including the go-ahead dunk with 20 seconds left, to help No. 21 Texas A&M shake off a bad offensive night and beat Mississippi State 61-60.

Texas A&M (12-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) struggled to score from everywhere on the court, but did just enough to earn its fifth straight win. D.J. Hogg and Caruso also each scored 11 points while Admon Gilder added 10.

It was tied in the waning seconds when Caruso hit Jones with a perfect pass on the baseline. The 6-foot-7 forward finished with the easy dunk to give the Aggies a 59-57 lead and they held on for the win.

“We’re just thankful to make a play and come out with a win,” Caruso said.

Caruso was crucial in the final minutes for the Aggies. On top of the timely pass to Jones, he hit a 3-pointer to give Texas A&M a 55-53 lead with 2:15 remaining.

Gavin Ware had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Mississippi State (7-6, 0-1). Malik Newman added 14 points.

The Aggies won despite shooting 19 of 62 (30.6) percent from the field.

“I’m real proud of our guys for fighting through it,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well. We didn’t finish around the basket like we have and you’ve got to give Mississippi State some credit for that.”

“But we found a way to win.”

Texas A&M was playing without guard Danuel House – the team’s second-leading scorer at more than 15 points per game. A team spokesman said House was in Texas dealing with a “personal matter,” but was expected back for the Tennessee game on Saturday.

Mississippi State jumped out to a 19-11 lead in the first half after a terrible shooting start by Texas A&M. The Aggies were just 3 of 22 (14.3 percent) from the field during that stretch, missing open looks from inside and out.

But Texas A&M slowly pulled out of its offensive funk. Anthony Collins made a 3-pointer and converted a free throw for the rare 4-point play and Hogg hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Aggies a 28-25 halftime lead.

Mississippi State’s three-game winning streak was snapped. The Bulldogs lost despite shooting 50 percent from the field in the second half.

Texas A&M hurt Mississippi State by grabbing 20 offensive rebounds, including several in the final minutes. Ware said the Bulldogs have to go a better job blocking out on the glass.

“You’ll see better from us in the next game,” Ware said.

By David Brandt, AP Sports Writer