By JOEL COLEMAN
Time and time again, Texas A&M put up shots and missed against Mississippi State on Wednesday night. Yet time and time again, the Aggies pulled down the rebound and capitalized.
In all, the Aggies pulled down 20 offensive rebounds and scored 16 second-chance points as No. 21 Texas A&M topped Mississippi State 61-60 at Humphrey Coliseum.
“We gave up too many second shots,” MSU head coach Ben Howland said. “There were a number of long shots and they had 13 more shots at the basket than we did. It came down to we had three more turnovers than them and they had too many offensive rebounds in the second half.”
The Aggies’ prowess on the offensive glass spoiled good offensive nights from a trio of Bulldogs.
Gavin Ware, who was held scoreless in the first half, bounced back to record a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Freshmen Malik Newman and Quinndary Weatherspoon also shined, with Newman scoring 14 points and Weatherspoon adding 12.
Four Aggies scored in double figures. Alex Caruso, Jalen Jones and D.J. Hogg all scored 11 points. Admon Gilder accounted for 10.
Texas A&M (12-2, 2-0) was able to survive on a night in which the team shot just 30.6 percent from the field.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well and didn’t finish around the basket like we have but we figured out a way to win,” Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said.
Mississippi State (7-6, 0-1) led for much of the first half before Texas A&M took a 28-25 lead into the intermission.
With things tied 7-7, Fred Thomas hit a 3-point shot with 13:33 left in the period that put the Bulldogs up 10-7. By the 7:20 mark, Mississippi State was enjoying a 20-11 advantage.
From there, the Aggies clawed back into the game. Gilder and Tonny Trocha-Morelos each had buckets and Anthony Collins nailed a trey, was fouled and sank a free throw to pull Texas A&M to within two at 21-19. The Aggies took the lead on a 3-pointer from Hogg.
The teams traded baskets to close out the half. I.J. Ready put the Bulldogs back in front by one with a jumper, but Texas A&M answered with a Caruso shot from beyond the arc. After Weatherspoon tipped one in to tie things at 25-25, Hogg sank another 3-point shot to give the Aggies their halftime advantage.
A tight first half was the appetizer to a nip-and-tuck second period.
With 2:41 to go, Newman hit a 3-pointer that gave the Bulldogs a 53-52 lead. Caruso responded seconds later with a three of his own. Two free throws from Ware knotted things at 55.
Craig Sword put one in after a pair of Caruso free throws to tie things 57-57 setting up the game’s decisive seconds.
With 20 seconds to play, a Jones dunk off a Caruso assist put the Aggies up by two. Texas A&M wouldn’t trail again.
“They got a little discombobulated there,” Caruso said of the MSU defense on Jones’ shot. “Once we didn’t get a quick shot off, I think they were a little lost and maybe a little out of position. I just saw (Jones) out of the corner of my eye and got it to him.”
Following Jones’ shot, Sword turned it over, ultimately leading to a pair of free throws from Gilder.
Weatherspoon hit a 3-pointer as time expired, leaving the Bulldogs one point shy.
“We’re right there,” Howland said. “If we can get a stop down the stretch, we have a chance to beat a Top-20 team at home.
“As bad as you feel about losing, that’s encouraging.”
Mississippi State returns to action on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Arkansas.