NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - After what he deemed lackluster performances in wins over McNeese State and Nicholls State, Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon put the Aggies through more-demanding-than-usual practices this week, even going to two-a-day drills on one occasion.
The Aggies' response to Turgeon's tough love relieved their coach. Khris Middleton scored 16 points and added five assists and No. 16 Texas A&M won its 11th straight game, beating Oklahoma 69-51 on Saturday in the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams.
``I was a nervous wreck today because I wasn't sure what I was going to get,' Turgeon said.
What he got was a team that shared the basketball - recording assists on 17 of its 25 baskets - crashed the boards and slowed the Sooners so much that Oklahoma had zero fast-break points. The Aggies also won away from home on a day that two other ranked Big 12 teams - Missouri and Kansas State - lost on the road to conference foes.
``We worked hard this week and it showed,' Turgeon said. ``The guys played well. They deserve this. They had a tough week.'
Texas A&M beat McNeese State by nine points on New Year's Eve and Nicholls State by 11 on Tuesday. What ensured during the Aggies' subsequent practices was ``pretty rough,' said Naji Hibbert, who came off the bench to score 14 points against the Sooners. Asked what that meant, Hibbert only smiled and said, ``No comment.'
Turgeon called the practices ``demanding.' He said the Aggies practiced twice Wednesday and ``got after it again hard' on Thursday.
By beating Oklahoma, Texas A&M (14-1, 1-0) matched the third-longest winning streak in school history and dealt Oklahoma its first loss in nine games this season at Lloyd Noble Center. The Aggies have won six of their last nine games against Oklahoma (8-7, 0-1) after losing 25 of their first 26 against the Sooners.
The Aggies, who shot 54.3 percent from the field, have won four of their last five Big 12 openers.
Texas A&M's only loss this season came by two points to Boston College on Nov. 25 in Orlando, Fla. The Aggies won the next day against Manhattan and haven't lost since, a run that includes wins over ranked foes Temple and Washington.
They have a ways to go before matching the two longest winning streaks in school history, though. Texas A&M won 25 straight games from 1919 to 1921 and 20 in a row from 1914 to 1916. The Aggies also had 11-game winning streaks in the 1921-22 and 2004-05 seasons.
Texas A&M, which entered the game second nationally in rebounding margin at plus-12.6, outrebounded the Sooners 30-20. The Aggies have outrebounded all 15 of their opponents this season. The Aggies also entered the game second in the Big 12 in scoring defense at 56.6 points per game. During the first 10 games of their winning streak, they held opponents to 37.1 percent shooting and Oklahoma hit 40 percent (18 of 45) from the field.
``That's where it starts with us, but I like to think that we're good offensively, too,' Turgeon said. ``We share the ball offensively. We've got a lot of good scorers. We've just been so inefficient on offense. It's nice to see us be a little bit more efficient.'
Oklahoma had won five of its previous six games. Although undefeated at home before Saturday, the Sooners hadn't played anyone of note there and had only three players - Steven Pledger, Andrew Fitzgerald and Cade Davis - who'd ever seen significant action in a Big 12 game.
That inexperience showed.
Texas A&M made eight of its first 10 shots and never trailed. The Aggies sprinted to an 18-6 lead in the first eight minutes as Oklahoma hit only three of its first 10 shots.
``When you get down to a team like that, it's hard to play from behind,' said Fitzgerald, who led the Sooners with 17 points.
The Sooners pulled within 22-16 on Pledger's 3-pointer with 7:27 left in the first half but Texas A&M eventually pushed its lead to 13 points and was ahead 36-28 at halftime.
Oklahoma was within six at 42-36 after a 4-point play by Davis with 15:52 left, but the Sooners managed only one basket during the next 7 1/2 minutes. The Aggies went on a 16-2 run to build their lead to 58-38 after two free throws by Ray Turner with 8:28 left. The Sooners came no closer than 17 points the rest of the way.
``We let the fact that we didn't score as well in the second half affect our defense,' Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said.
B.J. Holmes had 13 points and five assists for the Aggies. Davis scored 13 points for Oklahoma and had a team-high six rebounds.
The Associated Press News Service
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