COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP)—Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon had a few complaints about the Aggies’ 88-66 victory over UC Irvine on Saturday. He admitted he was nitpicking.
“I’ll never apologize for a 22-point win, against a team that plays really well,” Turgeon said. “It was a good day for us.”
Donald Sloan had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists and No. 14 Texas A&M pulled away from the Anteaters in the second half.
Dominique Kirk added 14 points and DeAndre Jordan had 12 points and five rebounds for the Aggies (11-1), who have won 32 of their last 33 games at noisy Reed Arena. Texas A&M has won 43 consecutive regular-season nonconference home games.
A&M shot 68 percent in the second half (19-of-28) and 63 percent for the game. The Aggies had a 32-22 rebound advantage and have outrebounded all of their 12 opponents.
Turgeon thinks his team still needs to work on rebounding and defense could have been better on Saturday. But Turgeon was happy with the Aggies’ season-low six turnovers and their 17 assists.
“Offensively, we played about as well as we’ve played for 40 minutes,” Turgeon said. “We did a lot of really good things.”
Darren Fells scored 19 points and Patrick Sanders added 18 for the Anteaters (4-7), who were routed despite going 10-of-18 from 3-point range.
“We tried to play defense tonight,” Irvine coach Pat Douglass said. “Just too many holes to plug up.”
The Aggies led 44-34 at halftime and Josh Carter made two 3-pointers as A&M stretched the lead to 59-43 in the first five minutes of the second half.
Sanders hit a 3-pointer and a long jumper for Irvine, but the Anteaters couldn’t keep up with the Aggies’ scoring pace. A&M made 11 of its first 13 shots out of halftime and led 70-53 after reserve Beau Muhlbach hit a jumper from the wing with 11 minutes left.
Joseph Jones scored inside before Sloan flipped an alley-oop pass to Chinemelu Elonu for dunk that pushed the lead past 20.
“What you saw tonight,” Sloan said, “everything seemed to be going in for us.”
Fells, with a tough-to-guard, left-handed shot, hit a 3-pointer and scored nine early points as the Anteaters led 14-12.
The Aggies controlled the boards from the start and retook the lead on a putback by Jordan and a 3-pointer by Kirk. Another 3-pointer by Kirk a minute later and a one-handed dunk by Jordan gave A&M a 22-14 lead.
After hitting their first four shots, the Anteaters missed 11 of their next 13.
The Aggies got four points on a single trip—Derrick Roland hit a jumper from the wing as Jordan got fouled. Jordan, a 28 percent free throw shooter, made two to put A&M up 35-24.
Kirk banked in a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to put the Aggies up 44-34. Outrebounded 17-10 in the first half, the Anteaters stayed close by going 6-for-8 from 3-point range.
“We had our moments,” Douglass said. “Some games, we’re 3-for-22. Some games, we make 10 or 12 of them. We seem to play better in bigger arenas.”
But the taller, beefier Aggies scored 40 points in the paint to outmuscle another opponent. A&M came in averaging 33 points in the paint.
And when A&M’s big men weren’t scoring, they were finding the Aggies’ sharpshooters open. A&M went 9-for-19 from 3-point range (47 percent).
“Our post guys did a good job of recognizing when they had a chance to score, and when they got double-teamed, throwing it out,” Turgeon said. “Our guards did a nice job, hitting shots.”