COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - After No. 11 Texas A&M lost its second straight game on Tuesday night to Florida while playing without three starters coach Billy Kennedy had a message for upcoming opponents.
“People better beat us now while we’ve got guys injured and making mistakes,” he said. “Because I really believe we’re going to get this team right because we’ve got a good group and we’ve got a talented group and we’re going to learn from it.”
Egor Koulechov scored 19 points and Keith Stone added 18 as Florida built a big lead early and cruised to the 83-66 victory.
The short-handed Aggies started the season 11-1 and had risen to No. 5 in the poll before their recent skid. This was A&M’s second straight lopsided loss after a 79-57 defeat at Alabama on Saturday.
The Gators (10-4, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) made 17 3-pointers, led by five from Koulechov and four from Stone to win their fourth straight game.
Texas A&M (11-3, 0-2) was led by Jay Jay Chandler’s 17 points on a night the team was missing Admon Gilder, who missed his fourth straight game with a knee injury, and Duane Wilson, who also sat out with a knee injury. Leading scorer D.J. Hogg, who is averaging 14.6 points a game, served the last game of a three-game suspension for an undisclosed team rules violation.
“It’s a factor. It’s no question,” Kennedy said. “You can’t not have your best foot forward in the SEC and give yourself a chance to win night in and night out.”
Florida coach Mike White is well aware of how dangerous the Aggies can be and was proud to see his team take advantage of them on a night when they were missing key players.
“A&M’s really good when they’re at full strength they’re probably as good as anyone in the country,” he said.
The Gators led by 16 at halftime thanks to a hot-shooting first half where they made 10 of 16 3-pointers and had extended the lead to 55-37 with about 15 minutes left.
Koulechov said their early success from 3-point range was a boost to their confidence.
“It’s big especially on the road when you come to a hostile environment,” he said. “It happened today. I hope we can get off to a start like that every game.”
The Aggies scored the next eight points with 3-pointers from Chris Collins and Tonny Trocha-Morelos to get within 10. But Florida used a 10-0 spurt, with the first eight points from Koulechov, to make it 65-45 with about 11 minutes left and the Aggies didn’t threaten again.
The Aggies led by one early before Florida used a 22-6 run, powered by four 3-pointers, to take a 30-15 lead with about 8 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
Texas A&M got going after that and outscored the Gators 12-6 over the next 4 minutes to get within 36-27.
Florida scored the next eight points, with 3s from Chris Chiozza and Koulechov, to push the lead to 44-27 and the Gators led 46-30 at halftime.
Florida: The Gators, who entered the game averaging 9.2 3-pointers a game, took over this game with long-range shooting and could be difficult to deal with if they continue to shoot this well.
Texas A&M: The Aggies’ recent slide is a bit concerning, but they should get back on track when Hogg returns for the next game and will get another boost when Wilson and Gilder get healthy.
THEY SAID IT
White was concerned about his smaller team dealing with the size of Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis and Robert Williams, who are both 6-foot-10. But he was relieved that his team limited their impact on Tuesday night saying: “Those two guys demand max effort in terms of defending them and rebounding with them and that’s obviously not been our strength … our guys showed a lot of fight just to hold them to 12 (points) apiece.”
Kennedy is looking forward to Hogg’s return on Saturday and believes he’s learned his lesson while sitting out.
“D.J. Hogg has been practicing with us and he’s fine, I think he’ll be ready to play,” Kennedy said. “He accepts responsibility for the mistakes he made and he’s put it behind him and we’re moving on with that.”
Florida: Visits Missouri on Saturday.
Texas A&M: Will try to end its skid when the team hosts LSU on Saturday before playing the next two games on the road.
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