COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon had proclaimed all week how Samford is one of the best coached teams the Aggies were face all season, and Jimmy Tillete's ballclub certainly proved that in the first half Friday night at Reed Arena.
But then A&M stepped it up on defense and senior guards guards Donald Sloan and Derrick Roland poured in a combined 17 points in the second half to lead the Aggies (3-0) to a 68-49 win.
"The game kind of went how I expected it to go. I thought we would have trouble guarding them at the start of the game," Turgeon said. "I was really proud of our group in the second half in how we guarded, allowing six field goals."
Sloan scored a game-high 22 points for his second consecutive 20-point effort and added a team-high six rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes. Samford just didn't have an answer for the senior from Seagoville who shot 7-11 from the field and 5-6 from behind the 3-point arc.
"They are a really good basketball team," Tillete said. "Sloan, holy cow, we don't have anybody who can even come close to matching up with him. They have a really nice team. They scored the ball around the basket and they shot the 3. They shot lights out."
Samford, however, was the aggressor early on as the Bulldogs ran Tillette's Princeton-style motion offense and found many open looks from outside. Junior center Andy King entered the game shooting 22.2-percent from 3-point range but hit 5-7 in the first half to lead Samford with 15 points.
On the heels of King's shooting, the Bulldogs led for most of the half before the Aggies pulled ahead 23-22 on a Sloan 3-pointer with 7:22 remaining in the first half. The lead would change hands twice more before the half when the Aggies led 36-35.
"It was pretty obvious that we weren't communicated enough and playing a little bit lackadaisical," Sloan said. "Pretty much the halftime speech was that if we go out to California and play like this we're going to get embarrassed on national TV. I think that soaked in everybody's mind and we got a little more intensity and still kept our composure at the same time. That pretty much woke us up."
Samford would take the lead once again to open the second half on a jumper from Jeffrey Merritt, but another 3-pointer from Sloan would give the Aggies the lead for good.
A&M, however, finally figured out Samford's 2-3 zone with a 20-3 run over 9:19 of the second half, giving A&M a 63-44 lead with 5:20 left in the game. Although it was Sloan and Roland providing much of the scoring, it was sophomore Dash Harris who stole the show.
Harris ended with a career-high 11 points on 4-7 shooting, 2-4 from the 3-point arc, and seven assists with no turnovers.
"He's been great. When they made a run in the first half I had him sitting over there next to me and I said we can't take him out. We really can't take him out," Turgeon said. "We're so much better, but we're trying to bring these young guys along, we're trying to get everybody minutes so they're capable of helping you down the road. I'm really proud of Dash. His decision-making has been really good and he's not forcing shots. You can see that his confidence is growing and he's playing like we thought he would all along."
A&M will travel to Anaheim, Calif., for the 76 Classic which starts Thanksgiving Day with the Aggies facing No. 22 Clemson in the first round at 3:30 p.m. CT at the Anaheim Convention Center.