COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M could not be happier to be home on Thanksgiving weekend.
"That was a rough trip for us," forward Savion Flagg said of the Aggies' winless three-game West Coast swing prior to arriving back at Reed Arena.
Flagg scored a game-high 25 points and A&M snapped a four-game losing streak with a 74-62 victory over South Alabama on Friday night.
"We've been fighting hard and getting better every game, but it's good to get a win, to reward the players," said A&M coach Billy Kennedy, who won his 350th career game to go with 281 losses.
The Aggies (2-4) trailed by four a little more than midway through the first half before closing on a tear against the outsized Jaguars (3-3). A&M outscored South Alabama 26-6 over the final nine minutes to grab a 43-27 halftime lead, one the Aggies wouldn't come close to relinquishing.
"We don't take anyone lightly," Kennedy said. "We're not mature enough or talented enough to take anyone lightly."
Flagg did much of the work himself in the first half, scoring 19 points over the first 20 minutes by making 9-of-11 from the field. Flagg was emotional afterward, and said he was playing through the pain of a cousin, Devin Taylor, dying Thursday night as the result of a motorcycle accident near Houston, and the recent passing of his grandmother.
Rodrick Sikes added 21 points for South Alabama. A&M held overwhelming advantages in rebounds (38-21) and points in the paint (44-26), and Aggies forward Josh Nebo had seven of the team's nine blocks.
The Jaguars had lost 101-58 at Auburn to start the season, so South Alabama coach Richie Riley considered Friday's 12-point setback to another SEC foe a big step in the right direction.
"In the last 12 minutes we made some strides, we didn't lay down like we did earlier in the year at Auburn," Riley said. "Any time you play in an environment like this it helps you grow up and mature. We fought and finished the game as good as we could."
A&M: The Aggies played again without senior guard Admon Gilder, who missed his sixth consecutive game to start the season with an undisclosed medical condition. They still appear lost at times without their veteran leader, especially in the early going.
The Aggies, who get a bit of a break after playing four games in nine days, needed this victory as a morale boost after dropping their previous four games, including three in the final minutes.
South Alabama: The Jaguars gained valuable experience in facing an SEC foe on the road, even if Reed Arena was less than half full for the slow-starting Aggies. South Alabama also can take heart from its strong start against the Aggies, in leaping to a 12-6 lead four minutes into the game, and before the larger Aggies could find their footing.
A&M gets a little break and stays at home, next playing host to Northwestern (La.) State on Dec. 3.
USA tries to get back on track on the road at Southern Mississippi on Wednesday.
The Aggies led 24-21 with 6:46 remaining in the first half when the Jaguars' Abdul Dial drove the lane for what appeared to be an easy layup. Nebo skied for the block, and an otherwise subdued crowd roared its approval.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
USA guard Herb McGee had a rough go of it, not only because he finished 1-of-6 from the field. McGee had half of the Jaguars' dozen turnovers, four more than any of his teammates.
HE SAID IT
"It was a brutal schedule. I did a poor job of scheduling."
Billy Kennedy on the Aggies playing four games in nine days, including three late starts on the West Coast.