KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams knows his team isn’t one to light it up on the offensive end of the court.
“We shoot a very low field goal percentage, and so we have to give ourselves the best chance we can on the offensive glass just so we can gain extra possessions,” he said.
The Aggies did just that by pulling down 23 offensive rebounds which they turned into 16 points in a 63-58 victory over Tennessee on Tuesday night.
Wendell Mitchell, who led Texas A&M with 23 points, hit a 3-pointer late in the shot clock with 48 seconds left to put the Aggies ahead 56-53, and he followed with a pair of free throws on their next possession.
Quenton Jackson added 11 points for the Aggies (10-9, 4-3 Southeastern Conference), and Emanuel Miller pulled down 12 rebounds. Mitchell was 5-of-20 shooting, including 4 of 14 from 3-point range, but he made all nine of his free throws.
Though the Aggies shot just 30.4% overall, they muscled their way into the paint when their deep shots didn’t fall, outrebounding the Vols 46-21 and making 22 of 29 free throws.
Tennessee made 46.7% of its shots and scored 30 points in the paint, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the Vols’ poor showing on the glass.
“It’s pretty simple. When you give up 23 offensive rebounds and only get three yourself, I’m not sure you deserve to win the game,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.
John Fulkerson led Tennessee (12-8, 4-3) with 15 points. Jordan Bowden added 13 points, and Yves Pons and Santiago Vescovi both scored 10. Tennessee entered the game ranked 10th nationally in scoring defense at 59.8 points per game.
Texas A&M: The Aggies won without much help from leading scorer Josh Nebo, who entered the game averaging 12.5 points per game and 7.1 rebounds. Nebo scored his only field goal of the game with 2:30 left in the second half, though it was a crucial putback that helped turn the momentum back toward Texas A&M.
Tennessee: Coming off a close loss at No. 3 Kansas on Saturday, the Vols struggled with turnovers (13) in addition to the problems on the boards. The Vols enter a tough stretch of their schedule, with back-to-back road games at Mississippi State and Alabama before returning home to host No. 13 Kentucky.
After a particularly rough November and December, Williams has been happy with Texas A&M’s energy in SEC play. The Aggies have won three straight conference road games against Vanderbilt, Missouri and Tennessee.
“I thought our spirit tonight to compete was back where it has to be in order for us to have a chance. It for sure came out on the glass,” he said.
With 13 seconds left in the game, official Mike Nance walked toward the scorers’ table and bumped shoulders with Barnes.
“I really have a lot of confidence in the SEC office that they’re going to look at that, and I believe they’ll look at this game and take it apart,” Barnes said.
Texas A&M: The Aggies play at Georgia on Saturday.
Tennessee: The Vols visit Mississippi State on Saturday.
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