Texas A&M cruises to 83-76 win over South Carolina State (Dec 10, 2016)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) South Carolina State coach Murray Garvin had a lone question after Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis scored 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the Aggies’ 83-76 victory over the Bulldogs on Saturday night.

”Can No. 34 transfer to us?” Garvin kidded afterward. ”He’s a load in the paint. He posts so deep, it’s hard to send a double team on him.”

A&M (7-2) led by at least eight points throughout the final half until a last-second 3-pointer by SCSU’s Greg Mortimer. Eric Eaves scored 23 points and Edward Stephens added 18 for the undersized Bulldogs (2-7).

The Aggies doubled up SCSU 48-24 on points in the paint, but none of that mattered to Davis, who said he was irate at A&M only winning by seven against a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponent.

”You give up 45 points in the second half against a team you just killed in the first half,” Davis said. ”Your focus and effort has to stay the same. You can’t just turn the switch on and off.”

Admon Gilder contributed 16 points for A&M and teammates D.J. Hogg and Robert Williams added 15 each. The Aggies’ reserves outscored SCSU’s reserves 18-7.

”We played too immature, we played like the game was over, especially in the second half,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.

He added that he tried sticking with a bigger lineup as practice for future SEC games, but the Aggies had trouble with SCSU repeatedly breaking their 1-3-1 zone defense.

”I thought we were mature enough to do it, and we weren’t,” Kennedy said. ”This team is not ready to do things that it hasn’t worked on a lot.”

The Bulldogs stayed within striking distance by shooting 52.2 percent from the 3-point line (12 of 23), compared to 20 percent for the Aggies (4 of 20). Stephens made 6-of-11 3-pointers for the Bulldogs.

”I told our guys in the locker room that there are no moral victories,” Garvin said. ”We’re not going to eat cake and ice cream or anything like that. But I was proud of our fight.”

BIG PICTURE

A&M wrapped up the cushiest portion of its schedule, with double-digit victories against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Denver and a closer call against SCSU (7-point win) with no significant injuries, the most they can ask for in playing this type of home schedule in early December.

SCSU has won just two of its nine games, but the Bulldogs can take heart that they’re almost through the woods of a rugged nonconference trail. Playing in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference shouldn’t be anything like playing the likes of Wichita State, South Carolina, Syracuse, Miami, A&M and next week Clemson in November and December.

TURNING POINT

The Bulldogs had whittled a 21-point second-half deficit to single digits with a little more than seven minutes remaining when A&M guard Admon Gilder collected a steal and a layup to push A&M’s lead back to double digits at 72-61. The Aggies would then lead by double digits for all but the last second of the game.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

Despite the relatively tight final score (83-76), the Aggies held the lead for the entire game, save for its first 35 seconds.

EYE OPENER

Three minutes into the second half, SCSU’s Eric Eaves drove the right baseline and threw down a highlight-reel dunk over A&M’s JC Hampton, and even Eaves appeared surprised by the ferocity of the slam in pausing for a moment after landing.

HE SAID IT

”Thank God we don’t have to beat Texas A&M to win our conference.”

– SCSU coach Murray Garvin, on a tough nonconference schedule helping prepare the Bulldogs for Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play.

UP NEXT

The Aggies travel to Houston’s Toyota Center, home of the NBA’s Rockets, on Saturday to face No. 20 Arizona as part of a doubleheader with Texas and Arkansas.

The Bulldogs continue their robust nonconference schedule on Tuesday at Clemson.