Recap : Mitchell's Season-High Leads Aggies Past Vols
COLLEGE STATION - Sometimes all it takes is a player to transform a season for a roster. Channeling his inner Kobe Bryant, Wendall Mitchell became that player for Texas A&M on the road Tuesday evening.
Using defensive play while instrumenting flawless offensive execution, the Aggies were able to collect 23 offensive rebounds, turning it into 16 points. Mitchell would score a season-high 23 points to give A&M a 63-58 victory over Tennessee.
"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," A&M coach Buzz Williams said.
Mitchell, who came into Tuesday's game was averaging 8.1 points per game, drilled a 3-pointer late in the second half with 48 seconds left to put A&M ahead 56-53. He followed that up with a pair of free throws on their next possession to give the Aggies a three-score lead.
Another strong offensive performance was led thanks to the likes of quality ball control for A&M (10-9, 4-3 SEC). Quenton Jackson would score 11 points while Emanuel Miller would provide a spark defensively, leading the team with 12 rebounds. Josh Nebo would only score four points, but three of his four rebounds led to offensive points for Williams' squad.
"I thought we were much more active on the offensive glass and I thought we did a really good job of preventing them from getting extra possessions which has been one of our Achilles heels as far as our defensive rebound rate," Williams said. "It's been very late low throughout the season so that was a big key on both sides of rebounding for us."
Mitchell looked dominant with the ball in his hands for a team-high 33 minutes. Behind the arc, the junior would go 4 of 14 from the 3-point range and make five shots inside the paint. He would finish a perfect 9 of 9 at the free throw line.
The Volunteers (12-8, 4-3 SEC) 46.7% of its shots and scored 30 points in the paint. It wasn't enough to make up for Tennessee's poor showing on the glass. The Aggies would out-rebound them, 46-21, collecting only three offensively.
"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.
Four Vols would hit the double-digit mark in scoring. John Fulkerson led Tennessee with 15 points while Jordan Bowden would tack on another 13. Yves Pon and Santiago Vescovi would each score 10.
The Aggies only averaged 30.4% of their shots from the field goal range. Capitalizing on 22 penalties from Tennessee, A&M would go 22 of 29 at the free throw line. Both teams would lead by as much as eight points in the second half before a surge from A&M's offense.
For the Aggies, perhaps playing on the road could be in their favor. After dropping a pair of games at Reed Arena, the team won three straight road games, including a lopsided win at Vanderbilt earlier this month.
"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," Williams said.
That spirt will need to carry over into the weekend when the Aggies hit the road out east. The team will face Tom Creen's Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, Feb.1, in Athens, Ga. for a Noon tipoff.