Gilder, Williams lead Texas A&M to 81-62 win over Auburn (Feb 18, 2017)
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy was cautiously optimistic following the Aggies' third-best shooting performance in a game in history.
''We got some good looks and we made them,'' Kennedy said following A&M's 81-62 victory over Auburn on Saturday. ''Hopefully it's a sign we're playing better. . (But) we haven't done anything consistent all year, so I'm not going to get too excited.''
Admon Gilder scored 17 points and Robert Williams blocked a career-high six shots as the Aggies cruised to the 19-point victory. The Aggies (14-12, 6-8 Southeastern) led 20-6 less than eight minutes into the game and held on to a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
''That's the best 40 minutes we've played so far this season,'' said A&M forward Tonny Trocha-Morelos, who along with Gilder had three steals for the Aggies.
A&M shot 68.9 percent from the field (31 of 45) compared to 34.3 percent (23 of 67) for Auburn.
''We've struggled defensively,'' Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. ''We thought we could disrupt them a little bit more than we did.''
In addition to Williams collecting six of the Aggies' eight blocks, the dynamic freshman also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and added 13 points. Williams projects as a first-round selection in the NBA draft should he turn pro following this season - and perhaps a high first-round pick.
His six blocks on Saturday were the most by an Aggie in a game since 2009, when Chinemelu Elonu collected six against Florida A&M.
''Admon Gilder and Tyler Davis are their two focal points,'' Pearl said of the A&M sophomores. ''Williams is going to go in the lottery, and he's their third-best player. They're doing a good job developing him.''
Mustapha Heron led the Tigers (16-11, 5-9) with 20 points and Ronnie Johnson followed with 12. Both teams entered Saturday's action having lost two consecutive SEC games. Kennedy plays little zone defense but relied heavily on it against the Tigers, who had averaged 92 points in their three previous games.
''That caught us off guard a little bit,'' Pearl said of A&M's defensive approach. ''And when we did attack it, we didn't execute.''
Auburn: The Tigers can claim a small moral victory in not allowing more than 60 points in a second half for the first time in four games. Still, they trailed by 14 at halftime and never threatened the cruising Aggies over the final 20 minutes. This is considered Bruce Pearl's best Auburn squad in his three seasons with the Tigers, but it sure didn't look like it on Saturday in losing a third consecutive game.
Texas A&M: The Aggies played one of their best halves of the season in leaping to a 41-27 lead at the break, in their first home game since long-range shooter D.J. Hogg was announced out for the season with a nagging foot injury. A&M's losing record in SEC play doesn't reflect it, but the Aggies have played decently since Jan. 21, in winning three of their last five games, with two single-digit setbacks at Florida and Vanderbilt mixed in.
HE SAID IT
''If I saw Robert, I would pass the ball, honestly,'' Trocha-Morelos's advice to opponents, if they notice Williams guarding them during a game.
STAT OF THE DAY
Despite the huge gap in shooting percentages, the game didn't develop into a big-time blowout because of the Aggies' ongoing propensity for turning over the ball. They entered Saturday's action last in the league in turnovers (14.9 per game), and finished with 19 against a poor defensive team in the Tigers.
VALUABLE ROLE (PLAYER)
A&M sophomore Kobie Eubanks had played 63 minutes all season, but set career highs in points (eight), rebounds (six) and minutes played (25), in picking up some of Hogg's minutes.
Auburn: The Tigers play at LSU on Tuesday, in trying to make it two in a row against LSU this season (a 78-74 Auburn home victory on Jan. 18).
Texas A&M: The Aggies play at Arkansas on Wednesday, in trying to avenge a 62-60 loss on Jan. 17 in College Station.