COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy was just glad to be back on the sideline for the Aggies. Winning his first game since taking a medical leave made it all the better.
Junior forward Ray Turner scored 20 points for the second straight game and A&M (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) beat Southern 83-58 Sunday in Kennedy's first game on the sideline since being diagnosed last month with Parkinson's disease.The 47-year-old Kennedy had taken a leave of absence from the program under doctor's orders. Associate head coach Glynn Cyprien had led the Aggies in practice and in their season-opening victory over Liberty on Wednesday."I'm just thankful to have the opportunity to coach a good group of young men and have a coaching staff and administration that's supported me this last month," Kennedy said. "It's been a hard time -- the most difficult time I've ever been through. I'm not fully recovered yet, but I'm getting there."The Aggies' play can't be hurting.A&M (2-0) raced to a 46-21 halftime lead against the Jaguars (1-1), outrebounded them 44-21 and the contest never was in doubt in the second half. A&M has won 62 consecutive nonconference home games dating to the start of the 2005-06 season."We were outmanned most of the night," Southern coach Roman Banks said. "We had no answer for their bodies on the inside."Derick Beltran scored 19 points for Southern (1-1).The Aggies played their first game without star guard Khris Middleton, who tore the meniscus in his right knee in the opener and is out three to four weeks.A&M outscored the Jaguars 15-0 on second-chance points, and 46-18 in the paint. A&M also outscored Southern 16-8 on fast-break points, and 29-10 off the bench. Forward Kourtney Roberson added 12 points for A&M, while forward David Loubeau and guard Elston Turner had 11 points apiece."We're glad to have coach back," Turner said. "We've been praying for him, and making sure his family is getting support in this situation."A&M, which leads its all-time series with Southern 3-1, shot 56.6 percent (30 of 53) from the floor, compared to 40.7 percent (22 of 54) for Southern. The Jaguars' Quinton Doggett had nine rebounds, while Turner and Keith Davis each grabbed eight for A&M.The Aggies, who led throughout, held a 33-point lead with 4:17 with remaining. A&M, which along with Kansas is picked to win the Big 12, will next play Mississippi State on Thursday in Madison Square Garden in the 17th Annual 2K Sports Classic. Kennedy said he's taking things "day by day" right now and isn't certain if he'll make the trip to New York City."I'm very thankful for all of the prayers from everyone and I'm happy to be getting involved again," Kennedy said.Banks is a former assistant to Kennedy at Southeastern Louisiana."The best thing about today was seeing my old boss and a very good friend of mine back on the sideline," Banks said. "I had to get over that emotion and then concentrate on the game. For me that was more important to see him out there than the game at that point."