NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Its best first half of the season shooting the ball since the opener carried the Texas A&M men’s basketball team to a 69-50 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday in Southeastern Conference men’s basketball action before 9,076 at Memorial Gymnasium.
A&M (8-6, 2-1) hit 15 of 28 field goals (53.6%) for a 36-20 halftime lead. That almost matched the 53.8% A&M shot against Northwestern State in the season opener.
The defense did the rest as the Aggies held their second straight conference opponent under 50 points for the first time in 13 years.
Freshman guard Andre Gordon led the first-half offensive surge with 11 points by hitting 4 of 8 field goals. Guard Jay Jay Chandler hit 3 of 6 field goals and Emanuel Miller hit 3 of 4.
“We’re a little better offensively, because we’re not getting beat on the offensive boards and we’re not giving the ball to the other team,” A&M coach Buzz Williams said on the SEC Network after the game.
A&M had a 38-29 rebounding edge for the game, allowing only 11 offensive boards and winning the overall rebounding battle for the seventh straight game. Josh Nebo and Miller led A&M with seven rebounds each. A&M also committed only 12 turnovers and outscored Vanderbilt 40-18 in the paint as the Aggies held the Commodores to their season low in points.
“The only chance we have to be in a game is to have close to special defensive possessions,” Williams said.
Gordon, playing the point by necessity, had a game-high 15 points. He hit 6 of 12 field goals with two assists and two steals.
“He’s continued to progress because he’s not scared,” Williams said.
Chandler added 10 points as the Aggies spread around the scoring.
Gordon hit a pair of buckets sandwiched around a Wendell Mitchell 3-pointer for a 7-0 start. A&M soon after used a 17-3 run capped by a Miller layup to take its biggest lead at 28-12.
Even as A&M went through a scoring drought, Vanderbilt couldn’t take advantage. But the Commodores’ 22nd consecutive loss in SEC play was the least of first-year coach Jerry Stackhouse’s concerns. Sophomore guard Aaron Nesmith, the SEC’s leading scorer and fifth nationally at 23 points a game, watched from the bench while sitting in a scooter to keep his weight off his right foot protected by a walking boot, something Stackhouse said he’ll be doing for the next six weeks.
“We don’t anticipate [Nesmith] being a part of what we’re doing any more this season,” Stackhouse said.
Stackhouse said Nesmith had been cleared to play after getting his foot X-rayed, but an MRI after an 83-79 loss at No. 5 Auburn on Wednesday showed the unspecified injury.
Stackhouse said no ligaments were involved but Nesmith was in tears after learning the diagnosis. Nesmith is projected as a mid-first round pick in the NBA draft in June.
Williams said he learned of Nesmith’s injury at a morning shootaround.
“I hate it for him because I’ve known him forever, and I think he’s a really good person and a really good player,” Williams said.
Vanderbilt also played without senior center Clevon Brown (knee).
Ejike Obinna and Maxwell Evans scored 12 points apiece to lead Vanderbilt, and Scotty Pippen Jr. added 10.
Without Nesmith, Stackhouse started Saben Lee, who had been coming off the bench this season. Stackhouse also was forced to play three walk-ons. Braelee Albert arrived on campus in December but was on the court in the first half with Jon Jossell, a manager the past three seasons. Junior walk-on Isaiah Rice played in the second half.
“It was the perfect storm for us today,” Stackhouse said. “Not what we wanted to see with a team that was trying to find some continuity with some lineups and different things we hadn’t had to use before.”
• A&M: The Aggies began the day ranked last in the SEC in shooting at 38.8% from the floor. The Aggies finished 30 of 57 (52.6%). A&M also ranks dead last in the nation at 350th in 3-point shooting (23.4%) but made 5 of 16 for an almost respectable 31.3%.
“The statistics bear out that we can’t shoot,” Williams said. “It changes our team when we’re able to make some shots.”
• VANDERBILT: The Commodores’ 3-point streak continued unabated. Pippen hit a pair of 3s in the first half to extend the school streak to 1,079 consecutive games for a 3 in every game played since the NCAA adopted the 3-point rule. ... The Commodores showed some improvement in the second half. The Aggies scored 12 points off seven Vandy turnovers in the first half but had just four off seven in the second half. ... The loss of Nesmith marks the second straight year Vanderbilt has lost a key player to a season-ending injury. After five games last season, freshman Darius Garland went down with a knee injury. Garland is now in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The last time A&M held back-to-back conference foes under 50 points came in 2007 when the Aggies beat Oklahoma 56-49 on Feb. 17 and followed with a 66-46 victory at Oklahoma State four days later. ... A&M won by its largest margin of victory on the road in SEC play since beating Georgia 79-45 on Jan. 16, 2016.
• A&M: hosts LSU at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Reed Arena.
• Vanderbilt: at Arkansas at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.