Starks leads Texas A&M past Arkansas, 80-66

Freshman point guard T.J. Starks hit four 3-point baskets and scored 16 points Tuesday night as Texas A&M beat Arkansas 80-66 in Southeastern Conference basketball.

Playing at home in College Station, the Aggies broke open a close game and snapped a two-game losing streak by outscoring the Razorbacks 47-34 in the second half.

Starks, from Lancaster, hit 4 of 5 from long distance in making his second straight start.

Center Tyler Davis produced 15 points and 13 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive glass.

Daryl Macon scored 20 off the bench to lead the Hogs, who had won three in a row.


Texas A&M: 14-8, 3-6
Arkansas: 15-7, 4-5

Texas A&M ends skid by defeating Ole Miss, 71-69

When a three-point shot left the hand of Ole Miss guard Breein Tyree, it looked good.

It looked good on the way up, and on the way down, and then something strange happened.

Texas A&M finally caught a break.

Tyree’s jumper from 28 feet circled the rim and came out at the buzzer Tuesday night as A&M broke a five-game losing streak, holding on for a 71-69 victory at Reed Arena.

“It went in and out,” Texas A&M center Tyler Davis told the SEC Network. “Thanks to God, it (came) out.”

Davis and Robert Williams combined for 38 points and 21 rebounds as A&M (12-6, 1-5 in the SEC) won for the first time since beating Buffalo at home on Dec. 21.

Bruce Stevens contributed 20 points and nine rebounds for Ole Miss (10-8, 3-3).

Back before Christmas, in the wake of the victory over Buffalo, A&M had won 11 of its first 12 and had climbed to No. 5 in the Associated Press Top 25.

Since then, misfortune shadowed the Aggies through losses to Alabama, Florida, LSU, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Losses to LSU and Kentucky were by one point each, so the victory over Ole Miss felt good.

The Aggies played extremely well in the first half, shooting 61 percent while surging into a 45-37 lead at intermission.

Not to be deterred, the Rebels rallied with their hustle in the first portion of the second half, coming back and over-taking the Aggies.

Ole Miss came from behind to assume four-point leads three times, the last time at 58-54 with 7:15 remaining on a Stevens jumper in the key.

From there, Williams and Davis took over.

Williams, in particular, was brilliant down the stretch with four dunks and a couple of blocked shots.

In the end, it was Davis with a hustle play for the game-winning point.

He spun inside, missed, rebounded the shot and followed it in with 23 seconds to play.

Ole Miss missed two three-pointers in the final nine seconds.

The first was by Terence Davis out of the corner, but the Rebels maintained possession when the rebound went out of bounds off the Aggies.

On the last play, Ole Miss guard Deandre Burnett faced up from the top of the three-point circle, but he was guarded too closely for a shot attempt.

Burnett elected to pitch it back to Tyree, who was open on a longer jumper that rimmed out to give A&M its first victory of the season in a game decided by three points or less.

“I was praying that it would bounce out,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said in comments posted to the athletic department website. “God blessed us with a good bounce, the right bounce. That’s how good this league is.

“Every game is going to come down to making free throws and tough plays at the end.”

The Aggies were 0-3 in those games up until Tuesday night.

A&M players expressed relief to get the first SEC victory of the season.

“It is a blessing honestly,” Williams said. “I have been praying on it a lot. I feel like we are getting our team back and starting to get it back to where it needs to be.

“We just have to slow it down on the turnovers.”

A&M welcomed back guard Duane Wilson, who hurt his knee in the SEC opener at Alabama.

It was the first time that the Aggies, hit by suspensions, injuries and illnesses, had been able to play with all the players they had hoped to use coming into conference play.

Even with everyone healthy for A&M, Ole Miss nearly pulled it out at the end.

“I did not necessarily want three, but I felt as if for us it was probably such a defensive factor,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “I thought our guys did a good job of executing and making the extra pass.

“We had a guy with a clean look and unfortunately for us it just didn’t go in.”

Kentucky toughens up, holds off Texas A&M, 74-73

Kentucky coach John Calipari was calling for toughness from his team Tuesday night in a Southeastern Conference struggle against Texas A&M.

For awhile, the Aggies out-toughed the Wildcats, playing on even terms for most of the night and then pushing out to a six-point lead with a little less than nine minutes remaining.

In the end, you could say the Wildcats heeded their coach’s call.

But after Kentucky’s late push allowed it to escape with a 74-73 victory at rowdy Rupp Arena in Lexington, you could also argue that A&M just simply let the game get away.

The Aggies turned it over too many times down the stretch, not to mention missing three key free throws.

As a result, the Wildcats (13-3, 3-1) took another baby step toward the excellence that their fans demand, while luck-less A&M (11-5, 0-4) lost its fourth straight.

Forward Tyler Davis and the Aggies, a team once ranked fifth in the nation a few weeks ago, put up a pretty good fight.

Davis hit 8 of 10 shots from the field and led A&M with 21 points.

Guard Admon Gilder added 14 in his first game back after sitting out five straight with a knee injury.

But the Aggies made far too many mistakes at the end to win.

Hamidou Diallo led the Wildcats with 18 points, while back-court mate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was everywhere and did almost everything, producing 16 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks.

In addition, PJ Washington scored 16 and Kenny Knox added 15.

A&M lost 69-68 to LSU on Saturday in College Station, when Tremont Waters hit a three with 1 second left to win it for the Tigers.

The end at Kentucky was almost as gruesome for the Aggies, who missed two wide-open, three-point shots in the final 23 seconds.

Trailing by the eventual final score, A&M also had a chance on the final play.

Kentucky missed two free throws and A&M kicked it out to the wing.

But when the Aggies tried to throw a long pass to the other end, it sailed out of bounds and over an A&M player tangled up with a Kentucky player in the paint.

Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said he thinks his team had opportunities in a hard-fought game.

“I thought when we needed to make … a big shot, we got good looks,” Kennedy said. “We just didn’t knock em down. We just didn’t make enough plays at the end and (we) put them at the free-throw line in one stretch that was critical.

“I think they shot six or eight free throws in a row. We had a hard time guarding them without fouling.”

Kennedy didn’t take issue with the non-call on the last play, but he did say his players were not happy with it.

“At the end, there, I didn’t see what happened,” he said. “That’s a tough call to make. Our guys tell me he was bear-hugged (by a Kentucky player).

“But I don’t know if the clock went out there. I don’t know what happened. It’s something I got to go watch.”

Calipari said later that his team still hasn’t reached the level of toughness it needs to play at a higher level.

“Look,” he said, “toughness doesn’t mean roughness.”

“Toughness means that you’re engaged, that you’re playing people before they catch the ball, that you’re meeting people before the ball hits the rim, that you’re sprinting the floor every time and bouncing, and you’re talking.

“We got closer but we’re still … that’s going to be a work in progress. And until we get real good at that, we’re going to be who we are.”