|Texas A&M's Elston Turner (31) shoots over Sam Houston State's Konner Tucker (44) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M defeated Sam Houston State 64-37. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)|
Sam Houston State loses 64-37 to No. 22 Texas A&M
COLLEGE STATION, Texas—Sam Houston State coach Jason Hooten was disappointed in his team's showing Wednesday night against No. 22 Texas A&M. He did find one thing that was encouraging, though.
That was the play of guard Demarcus Gatlin, who led the Bearkats with 13 points in a 64-37 defeat. Gatlin never slowed down in 39 minutes on the court.
"He has a lot of heart and a high motor," Hooten said.
Gatlin paced the offense despite shooting 5 of 20 from the field, including 1 for 8 from 3-point range.
"I love him. He's one of the best kids I've ever been around, and people need to realize he's just a sophomore who played junior-college ball last year," Hooten said. "To play at the level he is right now is special."
Sam Houston State finished 15 of 60 (25 percent) from the floor, the fifth straight opponent Texas A&M has held below 35 percent shooting.
The Bearkats (3-6) struggled from long range in particular, going 4 of 24 on 3-pointers. The Aggies have held four opponents in a row under 50 points for the first time since the 1959-60 season.
SHSU is depleted by injuries and only eight players saw action.
"Our game plan was good, we just didn't really execute it," Hooten said. "We were really bad tonight."
Ray Turner scored 15 points and Elston Turner added 14 for Texas A&M, which earned its fifth consecutive victory. The Aggies jumped out to a 16-point lead midway through the first half against their Highway 30 foes located about 50 miles to the east.
"Our guys really came out with good energy, and that was good to see," first-year coach Billy Kennedy said. "We made some shots from the perimeter and we got some support from the bench. I liked our enthusiasm."
Ray Turner added 10 rebounds in his first career double-double for the Aggies (7-1), who have won 66 straight non-conference home games.
"I needed to get a double-double, to show people that I've improved and worked hard in the offseason," Ray Turner said. "And the only way to do that was on the court."
The Aggies also overpowered SHSU inside, compiling a 50-31 rebounding advantage (including 40 on the defensive end) and outscoring the Bearkats 34-16 in the paint.
Sam Houston State had trouble slowing Texas A&M's up-tempo offense, as the Aggies outscored the Bearkats 11-4 on the fast break.
A&M has had a habit of starting slowly this season, but that wasn't the case on Wednesday as the Aggies built a 22-6 lead midway through the first half. Texas A&M led 31-17 at halftime and stretched the margin to 31 late in the second half.
Texas A&M sophomore forward Keith Davis had a career-high five blocks -- five more than SHSU had as a team. The Aggies' eight blocks were their most in two seasons.
"Defense is what we want to base this team on, and that's been the history of the program," Kennedy said. "We still have a long way to go, but when you're holding people down like that regardless of the quality of the opponent, that's good to see."
A&M forward Kourtney Roberson (ankle injury) sat out as a precaution. Davis took advantage of Roberson's absence with 19 solid minutes.
Kennedy said he expects guard Khris Middleton, out since the opener with a knee injury, to return on Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe.
Former A&M standout center DeAndre Jordan, now with the Los Angeles Clippers, sat courtside.
"I reached out to a lot of former players when I got here, and they're welcome any time," Kennedy said.