Texas A&M tops Louisiana Tech 71-59
Turner scores 15, Harris adds 14, Texas A&M gets 71-59 win over La. Tech in season opener
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy cherished being with his team to start this year after missing last season's opener while on medical leave when he was diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson's disease.
A wide smile spread across Kennedy's face when asked about coaching his first opener on Friday night against Louisiana Tech in his second season with the team.
"It was good," he said. "I'm very thankful that I was here."
Elston Turner scored 15 points and Fabyon Harris added 14 in his Texas A&M debut as the Aggies cruised to a 71-59 win over Louisiana Tech in the season opener for both teams.
Texas A&M was up by five before using a 9-3 spurt to stretch its lead to 39-28 with about 15½ minutes left. A 3-pointer by Turner sparked that run, and the Bulldogs missed eight shots in that span.
That wasn't the end of Louisiana Tech's shooting woes. The Bulldogs made just one of their first 11 shots in the second half as A&M pushed the lead to 44-32 with about 11 minutes remaining.
"They play textbook defense and we didn't take advantage of our opportunities," Louisiana Tech coach Michael White said.
White hopes that his young team can grow from this experience.
"We can use this to learn and see how we could have done better," he said.
Harris joined the Aggies after two seasons at the College of Southern Idaho. He averaged 17.1 points and 5.1 rebounds last season.
"I feel a lot of confidence, but I still played with a little nerves because I'm new to this environment and the team," he said. "But I just kept going and things started falling in."
Louisiana Tech was led by Raheem Appleby's 20 points and Brandon Gibson had 13.
Freshman J'Mychal Reese, who was rated the No. 1 high school point guard in Texas as last season, started in his A&M debut and had six points, three rebounds and two assists.
Kennedy liked the play of his new guards, and was encouraged that they combined for just three turnovers. He also thought the team had a different feel than it did last year.
"We had some personality to our team, and I think that's what we lacked last year," he said. "It's not going to always be pretty. This is a young team, and our program is in the process of trying to get better. But I was very thankful we got our first win against a quality opponent."
It's the first meeting between these two teams since a 75-59 win by A&M in 2006 in College Station.
Texas A&M's Kourtney Roberson looked good in his first game since breaking his left ankle after playing just nine games last season, and had 12 points and six rebounds. He helped the Aggies dominate inside, and they outscored Louisiana Tech 32-14 in the paint.
"It felt very great," Roberson said. "I was telling the guys earlier that it's been almost a year that I haven't played, so I had to show them what they were missing last year."
He scored A&M's first points on Friday.
"When I scored those two points I told Elston: 'I'm back,'" Roberson said.
Kennedy returned in the time for the second game last season. But his illness was the beginning of a tough year for Texas A&M, which entered last season expected to contend with Kansas for the Big 12 title in its last season in the conference. Instead, a rash of injuries and inconsistent play doomed the Aggies and they finished 4-14 in conference play and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven seasons.
Kennedy has learned to manage his disease now and he and the team are looking forward to A&M's first season in the Southeastern Conference.
"We've harped on it forever, last year was last year," Turner said. "This is a new year, a new team and we are moving forward."
Texas A&M was up by one in the first half Friday before using an 11-2 run to extend the lead to 22-12 about 6½ minutes before halftime. Harris made five points in that span.
The Aggies led 30-25 at halftime.
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