Billy Kennedy
Flagg & Mekowulu
Horace Broadnax
Texas A&M Basketball

Aggies have little trouble dispatching Savannah State in opener

November 8, 2018

The new-look Aggies didn’t really look all that new.

Like last season, they dominated inside, committed too many turnovers and were iffy at the free throw line in a 98-83 season-opening blowout of overmatched Savannah State on Wednesday night at Reed Arena.

Sophomore Savion Flagg, appearing significantly more explosive from his debut year, posted a double-double with 24 points and 16 rebounds. He also threw down 5 of 11 A&M dunks.

“Savion had a really good game, rebounding on both ends of the floor,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “Some of the plays he made, that’s what we’re going to need from him every night. Playing the four he’s a tough matchup...he and Christian (Mekowulu) on the glass.”

T.J. Starks had 16 points, though he struggled with nine turnovers. Jay Jay Chandler contributed 11 points, while Josh Nebo and John Walker each had 10 and Mekowulu had nine points and 14 boards.

Guard Collins Joseph hit a half-dozen of Savannah State’s 17 three-pointers en route to a team-high 20 points.

Expected to be more perimeter-oriented, the Aggies controlled play in the paint and on the boards much like last year with big men Tyler Davis and Robert Williams, who have departed for the NBA.

Billy Kennedy wasn't thrilled with his team's 24 turnovers in the season opener.

Nebo and Mekowulu, a pair of 6-foot-9 transfers, did a nice impression of them in the decisive first half in which the Aggies scored 28 points in the paint and out rebounded the visiting Tigers 36-24.

Nebo scored all of his 10 points — eight on dunks — in the first half. Meanwhile, Mekowulu had five points and nine rebounds and sophomore Savion Flagg had six points and six boards to lead the way as the Aggies built a 53-37 halftime lead.

Flagg said the inside dominance gave a similar feel to last season.

“With Nebo running the court really well, Mek as a big force on the inside and Isiah (Jacey) ... so just their presence on the boards and presence in the paint is kind of similar to last year. It’s just a lot faster getting up and down the court … no disrespect to Tyler and Rob.”

Kennedy wasn’t as convinced, though.

“No, it didn’t feel like that,” Kennedy said. “I think some of that had to do with that we were bigger than our opponent and more athletic than around the basket. We should be.”

A&M was without starting guards Admon Gilder and Chuck Mitchell, who are slowed with nagging knee injuries. Their status for Friday’s game against California-Irvine is uncertain.
Despite their absence, A&M showed a glimpse of its new approach with a four-guard lineup.

However, the Aggies converted only 8 of 38 three-point attempts. They also shot just 61.5 percent at the foul line and committed 24 turnovers.

“We may have broken some lights with some of our turnovers,” Kennedy said. “I thought we did some good things, especially the first half. We didn’t shoot the ball as well as I thought we would.”

“I thought we did some good things, especially the first half. We didn’t shoot the ball as well as I thought we would.”
- Head coach Billy Kennedy

A&M compensated by scoring 58 points in the paint, grabbing 68 rebounds, blocking eight shots and limiting Savannah State to just 18 points in the paint. They also had 21 assists.

The Aggies were never threatened. They took command midway through the first half when newcomer Brandon Mahan and Flagg hit consecutive three-pointers to launch a 16-6 run over a four minute span. That gave the Aggies a 35-22 lead. The margin never dropped below eight points afterward.

The A&M onslaught continued immediately in the second half. Flagg slammed three dunks in the first five minutes as the Aggies lead swelled to 65-44. Their biggest lead was 98-76.

Indeed, the only question was whether A&M would reach triple digits. They obviously had chances, but Kennedy began emptying the bench with two minutes remaining.

Kennedy, though, was more concerned about the high number of turnovers than points.

“TJ Starks can’t have nine turnovers, and he was telling me that walking down the hallways,” Kennedy said. “It was terrible. We can’t have 24 turnovers in any game, much less against an opponent that you’re more physically gifted than.”

Discussion from...

Aggies have little trouble dispatching Savannah State in opener

How long do you want to ignore this user?
98 to 83 is not exactly a blowout. We should have beat this team by 30+, not 15.
Getting Gilder back is critical.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Well, we were ahead by 22 with a couple of minutes left when the non-schoolies came in. Seems it would have been awful close to 30 if it had mattered.
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