COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — When Texas A&M fell behind by double digits in the second half on Tuesday night against Alabama, coach Billy Kennedy was certain his team could get back in it if the Aggies focused on defense.
They did, holding Alabama scoreless for more than five minutes to dig out of the hole and go on to a 65-56 win.
Savion Flagg and Wendell Mitchell scored 18 points each and Texas A&M overcame the 12-point deficit in the victory.
“I challenged them defensively,” Kennedy said. “We have to keep getting back and finishing and getting rebounds … I thought we did a good job of getting stops the last 8-10 minutes.”
The Aggies (11-14, 4-9 Southeastern Conference) fought back from the deficit with a big run and the game was tied before they scored the next six points, with four from Christian Mekowulu, to make it 56-50 with about four minutes left. Alabama got within 4 about a minute later, before a turnover by Dazon Ingram.
Mitchell added a basket for A&M before a dunk by Donta Hall to get Alabama within 4 again with 1:15 remaining. He was fouled on the shot but missed the free throw. Mitchell made a 3 on the other end to make it 63-56 with 35 seconds left to secure the victory.
Flagg said remaining positive after they fell behind helped them turn things around.
“We just always have the mentality to keep fighting … and things will work out and they did,” he said.
Alabama (15-11, 6-7) got 14 points from Tevin Mack as its skid stretched to a season-long three games.
It is Texas A&M’s second win over Alabama this season after TJ Starks hit a 3 at the buzzer to give the Aggies an 81-80 lead in the first meeting. The Aggies have won three out of four after dropping their previous three games.
Josh Nebo gave A&M its first points in almost six minutes when he made two free throws with about 12 minutes left. Those free throws started a 16-1 spurt, with nine points from Flagg and capped by a 3 from Jay Jay Chandler, that erased a big lead by Alabama and made it 48-45 with 6 1/2 minutes remaining.
Alabama had four turnovers and missed five shots to allow the Aggies to erase the deficit. The Crimson Tide snapped a scoring drought of more than five minutes when Mack had a 3-point play with six minutes left to tie it again.
Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson said not being able to put games away after getting a big lead has been a theme for his team this season.
“When we get a lead with 10 or 12 points, we can’t take it to 14 or 16 because we turn the ball over,” he said. “I’ve just got to do a better job of trying to help them make better decisions in critical situations.”
Alabama led by 6 at halftime but the Aggies used an 8-2 run to start the second half and tied it at 32-all. Brandon Mahan got things going in that stretch with a 3-pointer to open the half and capped the run with three free throws.
Kira Lewis Jr. made a 3-pointer for the Crimson Tide after that to start a 12-0 run that included five points from John Petty to put Alabama up 44-32 with about 12 1/2 minutes left. The Aggies missed six consecutive shots and had a turnover to help the Crimson Tide build the lead.
Both of these teams struggled with consistency on Tuesday night with each team going through long stretches without scoring in this back and forth affair. The Aggies and Alabama will both need to figure out how to play more complete games if either of them hopes to finish out their seasons strong.
THEY SAID IT
Johnson on his message to the players during this difficult stretch: “Life is not always perfect. It’s not a Disney movie that ends in a happy ending every game. You’ve got to just stick with it and persevere.”
Kennedy said Flagg, who is a sophomore, is starting to gain confidence and be more aggressive on offense in the last few games. Flagg scored 24 on Saturday before his big performance against Alabama.
“You can see him growing and maturing,” Kennedy said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys and I think they’re getting better and maturing at the right time.”
Alabama: Hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Texas A&M: Visits Arkansas on Saturday night.
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