COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M returned to its comfort zone -- the Aggies' home court -- in easily defeating Houston 74-57 on Wednesday night before 4,850 fans.
"Being in Reed Arena helped us and our fans really helped us," said Texas A&M junior forward Jamal Jones, who led all scorers with 21 points. "We got back on the right streak."
What the 7-2 Aggies hope turns into a streak, anyway. Texas A&M has won all seven of its home games this early season, but Wednesday's victory came on the heels of consecutive losses in the Corpus Christi (Texas) Classic to Missouri State and SMU.
"We kind of fell apart down in Corpus Christi," Jones admitted.
They did anything but that back on their familiar hardwood, however, and Jones made 7 of 10 3-pointers, one shy of the all-time school record held by three others.
"When I'm in that type of zone I'll keep shooting, and my teammates do a great job of finding me," Jones said.
"I knew how they were going to be feeling after what happened in Corpus," Houston coach James Dickey said. "I knew they were going to be ready to play. And they're just a terrific passing team."
"You can't shoot 34 percent and expect to have an opportunity to win on the road," said Dickey of the Cougars' 21 of 62 showing. "Defensively, Texas A&M really challenges shots -- and that's a credit to them."
Reese's off-balance 3-pointer from left of the key lifted Texas A&M to a 57-45 lead a little more than midway through the second half, and the Aggies owned a comfortable lead the rest of the way. Texas A&M, which led 38-32 at halftime, made 10 of 23 3-pointers (43.5 percent), while Houston was 3 of 15 (20 percent) from beyond the arc.
"That's how they played us," Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said of the Aggies offering up 23 shots from long range courtesy of the Cougars defense. "They were going under ball screens, and we could have gotten as many open threes as we wanted. We have to establish that we can score beyond the arc on a regular basis."
Texas A&M entered the game having made 36 of 119 (30.3 percent) from the 3-point line. Jones, who had made 5 of 7 3-pointers in the Aggies' previous home game (an 88-55 romp over Arkansas-Pine Bluff), earned his first start of the season over Antwan Space.
"I inserted him into the lineup because we needed more offense, and that's what we recruited him to do," said Kennedy, who earned his 250th career victory. "He made his shots, and that opened the floor for everyone else."
Aggies freshman guard Shawn Smith, who'd earned seven starts this season, didn't play because of what Kennedy labeled a "coach's decision."
Texas A&M and Houston played each other as Southwest Conference rivals from 1975-96 and have met four times since, with the Aggies winning three of those, including 70-58 last December at Houston. The Cougars still own a 53-32 all-time series advantage.
"This was a game that was very important to us," a relieved Kennedy said of Texas A&M, which has missed the postseason in his first two years, trying to get back on the right track. "I thought this game, too, was going to go down to the last five minutes. I've got a lot of respect for Houston."
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