No. 20 Texas A&M 81, Liberty 59
An early injury to standout guard Khris Middleton hardly slowed
down Texas A&M.
Ray Turner scored a career-high 20 points and the 20th-ranked
Aggies shot 65 percent from the field while cruising past Liberty
81-59 on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.
”We came out and ran the floor just like we’ve been doing in
practice,” Turner said. ”We’ve just got to keep playing
consistent, hard, and not give up on loose-ball plays. We’ve got to
keep the intensity up.”
Texas A&M played without first-year coach Billy Kennedy, on
leave following his recent diagnosis of an early stage of
Parkinson’s disease. Associate head coach Glynn Cyprien has run the
team in Kennedy’s absence.
Kennedy has visited the arena daily over the past week and
Cyprien has said the coach is expected back full-time ”soon.”
Kennedy was at Reed Arena for the game and talked to the team in
the locker room afterward, Cyprien said.
Middleton left the game in the first half with a hamstring
injury and is day to day, Cyprien said. Middleton played 10 minutes
and scored six points.
Texas A&M put away the Flames early with a 24-4 run midway
through the first half. The Aggies shot 59.3 percent (16 of 27)
from the field in the first half and jumped to a 37-14 lead at the
break before a crowd of 6,118.
”The guys played hard, and we were able to play a lot of guys a
lot of minutes,” Cyprien said. ”The game plan was to play inside
out, to get our big men involved early and work off of them.”
Elston Turner had 16 points and David Loubeau added 14 for the
Aggies, who began their 100th season in the 2K Sports Classic
benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. Next up, they host Southern on
Texas A&M has won 61 straight non-conference home games
dating to 2005.
David Minaya led Liberty with 14 points.
With the game well in hand, the Aggies shot 72 percent (18 of
25) in the second half and finished at 65.4 percent from the floor
(34 for 52), the fifth-highest mark in school history. Still, the
Flames outscored the Aggies 45-44 in the second half.
The Aggies outrebounded the Flames 39-29, with Elston Turner,
Ray Turner and Keith Davis grabbing six boards apiece.
A&M is one of 12 teams in the country that has been to six
consecutive NCAA tournaments.
”Their length and athleticism bothered us in the first half,”
Liberty coach Dale Layer said. ”We played much more aggressive in
the second half. We’ve gotten better over the last 24 hours. I’m
not disappointed in our effort, just that we couldn’t make enough
shots to make it a game.”
The Flames’ 14 points over the first 20 minutes was the
fourth-lowest total by a Texas A&M opponent in a first half.
The Aggies have won 11 consecutive season openers and a dozen
straight home openers.