COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — High school was the last time Texas A&M senior guard Mark French could remember a crowd chanting his name, he said.
Wednesday, at the end of A&M’s 56-52 win over Troy, the Aggie student section in Reed Arena was chanting “M-V-P” as French handled the ball.
The 5-foot-8 walk-on scored a career-high 12 points, all in the second half, including a game-tying 3-pointer and an assist on the final-go ahead basket.
French said he learned he would be starting five minutes before the game.
“He’s (head coach Buzz Williams) kind of vague with it,” French said of the starting lineup. “Whoever’s turn it is, you have to go be productive and that’s what I tried to do.”
Josh Nebo led the Aggies (3-1) with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Troy’s Darian Adams led all scorers with a career-high 20 points, trying to fill a void left with the extended absence of Trojans leading scorer Say Williams. The sophomore forward left the game midway through the first half with a dislocated kneecap but returned to the game early in the second half. Williams finished the game with two points.
“They said he could come back if he wanted to,” Troy head coach Scott Cross said. “We tried it. They said he definitely wasn’t going to be moving as fast. He definitely wasn’t the same after that injury.”
The Trojans (1-4) closed out the first half on a 6-0 run to lead 25-17. During the stretch, the Aggies shot 1-for-9 from the field. Williams kept his players on the baseline during the intermission, meeting in a huddle instead of in the locker room.
Williams said the decision to forego the locker room was not to embarrass his players, but to be efficient with the time they are given for halftime adjustments.
“I have so much to say that sometimes the content is overwhelming to them,” Williams said. “It always feels rushed, because of the clock.”
A&M finished the night shooting 32.1% from the field and 17.9% from behind the arc, hoisting up a season-high 28 3-point attempts. Troy shot 31.8% from the field and 23.3 from 3-point range, going 7-for-30.
All 12 of French’s 12 points came in the second half, including his first points of the season in over 30 minutes of total floor time.
“There’s no way that I think that anyone could ever question the intent of French’s heart, and whoever hires French seven months from now, (French will) end up running that company,” Williams said.
Troy: The loss gives the Trojans their third loss of the season of less than 10 points.
Texas A&M: The Aggies weathered the storm of a game without point guards T.J. Starks (suspended) and Andre Gordon (injured) thanks to the effort of French.
Freshman guard Andre Gordon, the Aggies’ third-leading scorer, began experiencing pain in his foot during practice on Monday prompting an X-ray to be taken, Williams said. Wednesday, he was in street clothes wearing a boot. “From what I know, it’s not good,” Williams said.
HE SAID IT
“I want him to win every game. His team was much better than we were. Better execution. A much better flow, a much more distinct style of play.” — Buzz Williams on his former player at UT Arlington, Scott Cross
Troy is on the road at Samford on Saturday.
Texas A&M travels for the first time this season to face Harvard in the Orlando Invitational on Thanksgiving.
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