COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP)—No. 9 Texas A&M has cruised through the early part of its schedule. It’s about to get a lot tougher.
Joseph Jones had 24 points, Antanas Kavaliauskas scored 23 and the Aggies prepared for a difficult road game against LSU with a 74-62 victory over Pacific on Saturday.
Texas A&M has won every game this season by double digits, all of them at home. The Aggies, who are winning by an average of 24 points a game, finally hit the road to play No. 10 LSU on Tuesday before facing top-ranked UCLA in Los Angeles on Dec. 9.
“It will be a good test (going to play LSU),” Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie said. “There will be a fired up team waiting for us over there and hopefully we will able to compete with them.”
The Aggies avenged their only nonconference loss in two-plus years under Gillispie, as Pacific (3-4) beat Texas A&M 63-56 last season. Anthony Brown had 19 points and Anthony Esparaza added 13 for Pacific, which became the first team this season to shoot better than 35 percent against the Aggies.
The win was Gillispie’s 50th at Texas A&M and the 80th of his career. Texas A&M has won 29 straight nonconference games at Reed Arena.
Kavaliauskas had a career-high seven assists. His behind-the-back pass late in the second half even surprised Jones.
“It kind of caught me by surprise,” Jones said. “I didn’t know if he heard me call his name.”
Gillispie knew that these two players can hurt you shooting inside and out and passing the ball as well.
Jones and Kavaliauskas scored 30 of the Aggies’ 39 first-half points. Jones was 9-of-11 and Kavaliauskas 9-of-16 as Texas A&M outscored Pacific 36-14 in the paint.
“I think both of those guys can really shoot the ball from the perimeter,” Gillispie said. “Kavaliauskas has really good vision and made a very nice behind the back pass for a basket. Both of them can pass, both of them can catch and both have good vision and know where the defense is going to be.”
Texas A&M led 39-29 at halftime and Pacific was only able to cut the lead to single digits three times in the second half.
Dominique Kirk, who had 13 points and a career-high eight assists, stole the ball from a driving C.J. Morgan with 4 minutes left and made a big 3-pointer at the other end to give Texas A&M a 69-56 lead.
“He is mentally tough,” Gillispie said. “He is not afraid to miss, his last play doesn’t effect his next one very often. That is a great quality to have as a player.”
Jones scored 10 straight points for the Aggies during a 14-3 run to break open a one-point game with 9 minutes to play in the first half. He hit two 3-pointers during the run after making only two all of last season.