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Texas A&M holds off Texas Southern late, 58-55

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams is thankful Josh Nebo overcame a preseason hamstring injury because the Aggies needed their primary big man in a big way on Monday night in a 58-55 comeback victory over Texas Southern.

Nebo grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds and blocked four shots and the Aggies' Savion Flagg scored 18 points in A&M's third consecutive victory. Nebo has played in all but the season opener after rebounding from the injury.

A&M clung to a 55-54 lead with 1:19 remaining when Nebo was fouled on an attempted layup. He missed both free throws, however, giving TSU (3-10) a chance to grab the lead.

Nebo responded by blocking Chris Baldwin's short jumper in the paint, although the Aggies' Andre Gordon turned over the ball on the other end. Following a TSU miss, this time by John Jones, Jay Jay Chandler was fouled.

Chandler made the second of two free throws, and the Aggies (6-5) led 56-54 with 29 seconds left. TSU's Tyrik Armstrong missed a short jumper in the lane that would have tied the game, and Flagg grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He made both free throws to push A&M to an insurmountable 58-54 lead.

"I feel like we're starting to play better as a team," Nebo said. "We still have a lot of work to do, and it's going to be tough every night. But as a team, we're ready."

The Aggies avenged an 88-73 Texas Southern victory a year prior in Reed Arena, one more loss last season that led to the end of the Billy Kennedy era at A&M. Yahuza Rasas and Jones each scored 15 points to lead the Tigers.

"We came in here with the right mindset, and the guys were certainly ready for the challenge," said TSU's Johnny Jones, a former LSU coach. "The (Aggies) made a couple of necessary plays, and we missed a couple of looks we had."

Williams shrugged when asked if his initial A&M team is ready for SEC play.

"I don't know," he said, later adding, "We will not be favored in a game the rest of the year."

BIG PICTURE

Texas Southern: Jones scheduled a slew of tough games leading to the opening of SWAC play, including road losses to No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 4 Oregon this month, with the idea his team gets tougher and not worn down from stiff competition.

"If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger," Jones said Monday.

Texas A&M: The Aggies hadn't played since Dec. 21 in taking an extended break for Christmas, and at times looked rusty. Williams' first A&M team hardly looks primed for SEC play in a handful of ways. But, ready or not, it's here.

UP NEXT

Texas Southern hosts Southern on Saturday to open SWAC play.

Texas A&M opens SEC play at Arkansas on Saturday.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

A&M's Josh Nebo skied for a block of Yahuza Rasas's attempted layup, the Aggies' Jay Jay Chandler grabbed the carom and went end-to-end for a dunk over the Tigers' Jethro Tshisumpa to lift A&M to an 8-1 lead a little more than two minutes into the game.

STAT OF THE GAME

TSU made only 3-of-16 3-pointers (18.8 percent) but the Aggies were even worse, making 4-of-24 (16.7 percent) from long range. A&M's Jay Jay Chandler and Andre Gordon were a combined 1-of-13 on 3-point attempts.

HE SAID IT

"We could say that we could have lost any of the `guaranteed' games that we played. Or we could turn that around and say, `Yeah, but we didn't."

Buzz Williams on the state of his first Texas A&M team entering SEC play.