Short-handed Texas A&M beats Buffalo 89-73

Texas A&M guard Savion Flagg (5) looks to drive around Buffalo guard CJ Massinburg (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) No. 8 Texas A&M continues taking care of business on the court as Southeastern Conference play approaches, including the Aggies’ 89-73 victory over Buffalo on Thursday night.

It’s what’s happening off the court that’s troubling A&M and its fans.

A&M announced before Thursday’s game that guard D.J. Hogg, the team’s leading scorer at 14.6 points per game, was suspended for three games for a violation of university policy. In addition, freshman guards J.J. Caldwell and T.J. Starks missed the Buffalo game because of violations of team rules.

A&M coach Billy Kennedy apologized to fans for having to suspend the trio, and added that he intends to uphold the values of the university. Kennedy declined to address specifics of the suspensions.

Hogg and Caldwell had already been previously suspended to start this season (including only an exhibition game for Hogg). The thin Aggies also are missing starting guard Admon Gilder with an injured knee at least through early in SEC play.

Conference play starts on Dec. 30 as A&M (11-1) plays at Alabama, and Hogg is scheduled to miss that game along with the conference home opener against Florida on Jan. 2.

Meanwhile A&M forward Robert Williams returned to action on Thursday night, after missing two games because of a concussion. Williams, the reigning SEC defensive player of the year, was suspended the first two games of the season because of an undisclosed violation of team policy.

As for the game itself before a sparse crowd four days before Christmas, the Aggies did what they needed to do for the victory over the Bulls (7-5). Senior guard Duane Wilson led all scorers with 23 points and Savion Flagg added 21 for the Aggies.

Buffalo’s CJ Massinburg of Dallas, in a return to his home state, paced the Bulls with 20 points.

”We wore them down in the second half,” Kennedy said.

The Aggies led 60-58 with 6:36 remaining when Wilson hit a layup, Williams followed with a block on the other end, and Tonny Trocha-Morelos was fouled on an ensuing A&M fast break. Trocha-Morelos made the layup and resulting free throw, and within the span of less than a minute the Aggies led 65-58.

The Aggies got a scare a couple of minutes later when Williams missed a dunk on a fast break and landed awkwardly. He limped off the court with 4:24 remaining and didn’t return, but Kennedy said he was OK.

Buffalo coach Nate Oats was pleased that his winded team, which played at Syracuse on Tuesday night, hung around against a top 10 team for as long as it did.

”I knew they suspended the three guys but they still have some players out there on the floor,” Oats said of the Aggies. ”It’s so hard to score at the rim on them. When you can’t score at the rim, you pretty much have to make a bunch of 3-pointers, and your legs get tired at the end of the game.”

BIG PICTURE

Texas A&M: The downside for the Aggies is missing a handful of players they’ll be counting on to compete for an SEC championship and perhaps make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. The upside is valuable playing time for the likes of Flagg and Jay Jay Chandler. No question, however, the negatives outweigh the positives for what’s been a troubling nonconference stretch for A&M.

Buffalo: The Bulls lost their second consecutive game following three consecutive victories, but Buffalo should be buoyed by playing another tough opponent fairly close on the road – at least until late in Thursday’s contest. The Bulls lost at Syracuse 81-74 on Tuesday night.

UP NEXT

Texas A&M: The Aggies open SEC play at Alabama on Dec. 30.

Buffalo: The Bulls host NJIT on Dec. 28.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

Flagg snuck behind the Bulls defense for a rousing dunk on an alley-oop pass from Wilson for a 56-47 A&M lead midway through the second half.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Aggies should hold steady in the top 10 after two victories on their home court against Northern Kentucky and Buffalo, although both games were relatively close late.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

The Aggies outscored the Bulls 50-14 in points in the paint, including a 24-0 advantage at halftime, when A&M led 34-31.

HE SAID IT

”We’ll handle that in the locker room. Everybody makes mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.” Wilson on his three teammates being suspended.

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25