COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Vanderbilt took another step toward unenviable Southeastern Conference history on Saturday.
"Losing stinks, it's frustrating and it's miserable," Commodores coach Bryce Drew said. "Any bad words you can think."
Savion Flagg scored a game-high 22 points as Texas A&M defeated Vanderbilt 64-57 in Reed Arena. The Aggies (13-15, 6-10 Southeastern) have won five of their last seven league games, while the Commodores (9-20, 0-16) have lost a school-record 17 consecutive games, including all 16 in the SEC.
No team has ever finished 0-18 in SEC play. Vanderbilt took an 11-0 lead a little more than three minutes into the game. The Aggies never led in the first half but managed to slice the Commodores' lead to one on two occasions a few minutes prior to halftime.
"We started the game with a ton of energy," Drew said. "We knew the first four minutes of the second half were going to be big. You talk about those all through the year."
A&M outscored Vanderbilt 13-4 in that key stretch, and the Aggies held the lead the rest of the way despite the Commodores keeping it close throughout. Forward Christian Mekowulu added 19 points for A&M and he and Flagg each grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
"It wasn't pretty, but I liked our determination and our effort," A&M coach Billy Kennedy said of the tale of two halves on Saturday. "They didn't want to lose. Christian and Savion were big factors on the glass and played with physicality - and that was the difference in the game."
The Aggies led 55-53 with 3:06 remaining when Mekowulu made one-of-two free throws to give A&M a three-point lead. Vanderbilt's Yanni Wetzell quickly responded with a dunk with 2:48 left. Undaunted, Flagg scored the next two baskets on layups to push A&M to a 60-55 lead with 1:28 remaining.
Wetzell led the Commodores with 15 points. Mekowulu missed all five of his free-throw attempts in the first half but rebounded to make 5 of 6 in the second half.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores can't buy a break this season, building a double-digit lead only to see it waste away late in the first half and after halftime. The Commodores have two more chances to avoid the 0-18 SEC distinction.
Texas A&M: Following a 1-8 start to league play and rivaling Vanderbilt for SEC wretchedness, the Aggies have won five of their last seven games in giving the A&M administration plenty of food for thought concerning Kennedy's future. He's likely to miss the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in his eight seasons with the Aggies, but his team's competitiveness down the stretch is worth noting.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores host Arkansas on Wednesday in their home finale.
Texas A&M: The Aggies host South Carolina on Tuesday in their home finale.
Midway through the second half, A&M forward Josh Nebo blocked a Saben Lee attempted layup and then Nebo collected a dunk on the other end of the floor to cap a fast break.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Commodores blew their big early lead in large part by missing 25 of their 30 3-point attempts. Drew said afterward he encouraged his players to keep launching the ball because "we've had a lot of guys passing up shots, and that's really hurting our offense."
HE SAID IT
"I did the same thing in my head."
Mekowulu when asked about fans' exaggerated claps after he finally made his first free throw in the second half.
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