Tennessee opens SEC play with 73-63 win over Texas A&M (Dec 29, 2016)
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Rick Barnes invited his former standout guard at Texas, T.J. Ford, to give a pre-game speech to Barnes' Tennessee squad at Texas A&M on Thursday night.
''He told us just play hard, and everything else will take care of itself,'' Volunteers guard Detrick Mostella said. ''And that there's nothing like beating Texas A&M.''
The Volunteers found out firsthand in Reed Arena, as Lamonte Turner scored 14 points and Mostella added 13 in Tennessee's 73-63 victory in the teams' Southeastern Conference opener.
The Volunteers (8-5) overwhelmed the Aggies (8-4) in points off turnovers (19-6), while creating 16 A&M turnovers to 10 of their own.
''This was a great win for us, and a great effort by a lot of different guys,'' Barnes said. ''Texas A&M does so many things that are hard to defend, so we had to be as scrappy as we could be defensively.''
A&M's D.J. Hogg led all scorers with 21 points, and the Aggies' Tonny Trocha-Morelos grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. A&M center Tyler Davis only made three of his nine field-goal attempts, as Tennessee provided plenty of backside help in slowing the Aggies' top player.
The teams were tied 29-all at halftime. Hogg scored 13 points over the first 20 minutes, making all three of his 3-point attempts in that span. But he cooled off in the second half right along with his teammates.
''Tennessee came in here aggressive, and really tried to attack us,'' A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. ''They out-physicaled us, and did a much better job of bothering us than anybody we've played.''
Vols point guard Jordan Bone returned to action after missing the last nine games because of a stress fracture in his foot. He played eight minutes and missed all three of his field-goal attempts.
The Vols snapped a four-game losing streak to A&M, with all of those games as SEC foes, and eased ahead in the all-time series 6-5.
''This is a big win, and last season we really didn't have the power to come on the road and get a big win,'' Mostella said of last year's 15-19 team.
Barnes, who coached at Texas from 1998-2015, hadn't coached in Reed Arena since 2012, prior to the Aggies exiting the Big 12 for the SEC.
''I love the state of Texas, and always have,'' said Barnes, in his second season at Tennessee. ''And I've always had so much respect for (Texas A&M) and the people here.''
Tennessee: The Volunteers are sitting pretty following a surprising road victory to start SEC play, considering the Aggies were picked by the media in a preseason poll to finish third in the league and the Vols 13th.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are in danger of starting league play in a deep hole following a home loss against a team they expected to beat. A&M's next two games are at No. 8 Kentucky and at South Carolina, two of the league's top teams to start the season.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Tennessee proved to have a much deeper bench than A&M, with the Volunteers reserves outscoring their Aggies counterparts 30-8. Billy Kennedy said the Volunteers 10-player rotation wore down A&M in the second half.
The Aggies entered the game as one of the league's best shot blockers, but Tennessee's Grant Williams turned A&M on its ear with six of the Volunteers' nine blocks. The Aggies collected a season-low two blocks, one each by Tonny Trocha-Morelos and Robert Williams.
HE SAID IT
''It really does feel different, coming in here with a team that says, `Tennessee,' on it.''
Rick Barnes, who spent 17 seasons coaching Texas against archrival A&M, when both were Big 12 members.
Tennessee: The Volunteers play their first SEC game in Thompson-Boling Arena when they play host to Arkansas on Tuesday.
Texas A&M: The Aggies play their first SEC road game when they visit No. 8 Kentucky on Tuesday.