COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M vows it can shoot better from long range than it showed on Tuesday night in a 75-65 victory over Prairie View A&M in Reed Arena.
That will be a necessity for the Aggies if they intend to finally compete in the Southeastern Conference in coach Billy Kennedy's third season.
The Aggies, led by sophomore guard Alex Caruso's career-high six steals, only made 2 of 13 (15.4 percent) from the 3-point line, and both makes came in the final 4:10. No player attempted more than three 3-pointers in the well-rounded display of despair.
"We know from practice that we can make those shots," A&M forward Antwan Space contended. "As time goes on, they'll start falling."
By comparison, the Panthers looked like sharpshooters, making 9 of 23 (39.1 percent) from long range. A&M, leading by 21 (54-33) with 11:43 remaining, appeared to be cruising to a victory when Prairie View (1-3) charged back by slicing the Aggies' lead to 56-51 with 6:10 left.
"We're a lot better team than what we showed tonight," Prairie View coach Byron Rimm said. "We came out sluggish, but we're a very gritty team. We're more gritty than skilled, and we have to play like that."
Rimm added that his underdog Panthers of the Southwestern Athletic Conference had to earn the respect of the referees -- and his team's slow start against the Aggies didn't help on that front.
"We have to show the referees that we can play, and we came out very sluggish, and they didn't think we could play," Rimm said. "I'm not making excuses -- we just didn't play very good."
The Aggies, in starting 4-0 for the first time since 2009-10, mustered a final rally after Prairie View cut their 21-point lead to five, in outscoring the Panthers 19-14 down the stretch. Caruso also led A&M with 15 points, while Space, Jamal Jones and Shawn Smith each chipped in 12 in the rounded scoring effort. Prairie View's Montrael Scott tallied a game-high 20 points, and John Brisco followed with 10.
"We played 25 or 30 minutes of good basketball," Kennedy said. "We had some moments where there was a lack of discipline, and Prairie View got more confidence and started throwing in some threes."
As for A&M's own lack of 3-pointers, Kennedy said the Aggies will improve as the season wears on.
"That's not going to be a strength of the team, but we're better shooters than what we're showing right now," he said. "Some guys are pressing. We did a good job of driving the ball, so we're not just jacking up threes with only 13 attempts. But we did have some wide open looks, and we've got to make those shots."
One player who should help from long range is sophomore guard J-Mychal Reese, whom Kennedy said will return to the lineup after missing the first four games because of suspension. Kennedy said prior to the season that Reese had committed an unspecified violation of an athletic department rule, and how Reese responded to the suspension would determine when he returned. The Aggies next play host to Sam Houston State on Sunday.
"He's handled everything the right way," Kennedy said Tuesday. "It's behind him and we're looking forward to getting him some playing time soon. He still has to work to get on the floor."
A&M committed a season-high 16 turnovers against the Panthers, after having a combined 30 in their first three games.
"Prairie View pressed and they played zone, and they did a good job of turning us over," Kennedy said. "We had some guys who made some boneheaded plays. We can't just give them the ball."
Reese also is an excellent ball handler, so his return is expected to help the Aggies get the ball down the floor, as well.
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