New approach. Texas A&M 82, Buffalo 58
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Bobby Hurley has been around basketball all his life -- just not in the position he was in Friday night. And the Hurley era at Buffalo has nowhere to go but up, after Texas A&M defeated the Bulls 82-58 in Hurley's head-coaching debut.
"As much as you know about the game and as much as you've been through as a player, it's a different game when you're coaching it," said Hurley, the former Duke star. "It feels pretty lonely at times, and it did in the second half."
The Aggies (1-0) led only 53-52 with 11:35 remaining before putting away the Bulls (0-1) with a 29-6 run. A&M junior guard Jordan Green scored a career-high 15 points, while freshman Shawn Smith added 13, and sophomores Antwan Space and Alex Caruso chipped in 11 points each. Caruso also had eight assists.
"You get confidence from working hard," said Green, who got off to a good start after struggling through his first two seasons with A&M. "We've all been working hard, so I'm not surprised by any of us scoring."
A&M junior forward Kourtney Roberson, who was diagnosed with a rapid heartbeat during camp but cleared to play for the opener, notched a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
"That first five minutes I had to have someone (substitute) for me so I could get a second wind," a visibly worn but smiling Roberson said.
He wasn't a sure thing to play until Friday, Roberson said, when A&M coach Billy Kennedy asked, "Are you ready?" Roberson responded with a, "Yes, sir."
Javon McCrea led the Bulls with 14 points, as Buffalo shot only 24.2 percent from the floor, while slowly wearing down against the much more athletic Aggies. A&M fell behind 25-17 before closing out the first half with a 22-6 run to lead 39-31 at the break.
"We did a pretty good job defensively in the first half, but we had some breakdowns in that half that cost us," Hurley said. "That's a big difference, going into the first half being down two or up two, or down eight."
Players were separated on two occasions midway through the chippier-than-anticipated opener. Following the second separation, Buffalo guard Shannon Evans and Space received double technical fouls. The Aggies played without starting sophomore guard J-Mychal Reese, who's suspended because of a violation of athletic department rules and regulations.
The Bulls were coming off a 14-20 season prior to Hurley's hire, and the Aggies have missed the NCAA tournament in the first two seasons of Kennedy's tenure, after making it from 2006-11 under the prior staffs of Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon.
"I was really proud of our team that we were able to win on the defensive side of the ball," an emotional Kennedy said. "We finished off a game, and we haven't done that very often in the last two years. . Any time you can win going away and finish a game the right way, it's fun."