COLLEGE STATION, Texas - No. 23 Texas A&M knew it had to get back to its defensive identity after an 84-81 loss to New Mexico, and the Aggies put the defensive pressure on The Citadel Saturday night at Reed Arena right from the tip off.
A&M (9-2) outscored The Citadel (6-6), 33-11 in the first half in limited the Bulldogs to 22.7-percent from the field and 1-9 from the 3-point arc in the first 20 minutes en route to a 71-50 win.
"I thought we were really good defensively almost the whole game. I thought we were really disciplined on defense," said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. "It was nice to get off to a good start. I just thought the whole first half defensively we were really good."
Citadel guard Zach Urbanus headed into Saturday's game hitting 51.3-percent from the 3-point arc, but the Aggies held him to just 2-6 from outside and 10 points in his return to Texas. Urbanus is a native of Austin. The reason was simple - A&M senior guard Derrick Roland.
Roland was all over Urbanus, the lone Bulldog to hit a 3-point shot in the first half off a screen at the top of the key, with much less fanfare from the officials in this game. Roland finished with nine points and just one personal foul.
"Roland did a really nice job on Urbanus and the other guys really played their assignments really well. I thought A&M did a really good job of being disciplined," said The Citadel head coach Ed Conroy. "I thought what they did was stay on Urbanus. They did not leave him. Wells can typical get by guys and create shots for Zach, but Roland stayed on him and I thought they did a nice job of crowded that lane by playing off our guys that aren't great scorers."
The Aggies were led by senior guard Donald Sloan's 17 points and four assists, but it was junior forward Nathan Walkup that got the Aggies going early to push out to a quick 19-6 lead in the first seven minutes of the game. Walkup hit 3-4 3-pointers in the first half and finished hitting 4-6 in the game for 12 points.
"I've been kind of inconsistent shooting this year. Some games I've been hot and some games I haven't," Walkup said. "I just really put in the extra time this week after finals and shot the floor before and after practice and came in about an hour early today and shot. I got to feel good and put the ball in the hole. That's what I'm here to do."
Walkup wasn't the only forward to get hot from the field as true freshman Khris Middleton poured in 11 points on 4-5 shooting from the field. Middleton's one missed shot was a 3-point attempt with his points coming off the dribble.
It was a new part of Middleton's game that hasn't been seen before this season in games, but it's something that Turgeon was expecting.
"I feel like him and Naji at times just don't want to step on the seniors' toes and are so unselfish and not looking to do a lot," Turgeon said. "I thought our 4 position, Nate and Khris, played well tonight and they made shots. I think they were 8-1 combined. Khris has a lot of game, and as this year goes on he'll show more and more."
Citadel guard Cameron Wells scored a game-high 28 points as he took over the Bulldog offense with 24 second-half points. Wells was 11-19 from the field.
A&M senior forward Bryan Davis added seven points and nine rebounds while David Loubeau added six points and eight rebounds. The Aggies, who were out-rebounded handily by new Mexico, out-rebounded the Bulldogs, 38-26.
"We just worked on us a lot and the guys worked hard. The guys worked hard this week and they played that way. They played well," Turgeon said. "It was a good win and I was proud of the guys. I think they showed a little bit of maturity and they played better for a longer period of time tonight."
A&M travels to Seattle Tuesday for a 10 p.m. CT tip-off at No. 24 Washington in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series.