COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) – Texas A&M senior guard Jalen Jones overcame strep throat this week just in time to turn in his best game of the season.
“I got some rest, and I was able to chill in bed a little bit more,” a smiling Jones said following the Aggies’ 78-68 victory over Kansas State on Saturday.
Jones scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds, both game highs. After being bedridden most of the week, he returned to practice on Friday.
The Aggies (8-2) led 43-42 with 13:47 remaining before outscoring the Wildcats (7-2) 23-6 over the next eight minutes. In that span, Jones scored 10 points, including a long 3-pointer above the key to lift A&M to a 64-45 lead with 6:02 remaining.
“We didn’t have any answers for him,” KSU coach Bruce Weber said.
Wesley Iwundu led the Wildcats with 23 points, while D.J. Johnson followed with 14.
Alex Caruso added 13 points for the Aggies. Caruso owns 224 career steals, after snagging six on Saturday, and is five shy of breaking the school record of 228 set by guard David Edwards from 1991-94.
KSU climbed back into the game late, primarily thanks to Iwundu coming alive with 18 second-half points, and trailed 71-66 with a little more than a minute remaining. But Caruso spun in the lane and knocked down a short jumper, and on the ensuing inbound stuck his hand out while running up court and deflected the ball for a steal.
“Caruso makes such a difference for them,” Weber said. “He does all of the little things.”
A&M, in displaying the depth fifth-year coach Billy Kennedy has championed this season, outscored KSU 39-20 off the bench. Jones didn’t start the game because of his sickness, but still played 30 minutes off the bench.
The Aggies rebounded from a 67-54 loss at Arizona State on Dec. 5, while snapping a three-game winning streak for KSU in the battle of former Big 12 foes.
“Kansas State never gave up, and we could never really put them away,” Kennedy said. “Alex Caruso and Jalen Jones really stepped up for us. It was good to see a couple of seniors step up when a couple of other seniors were struggling. That’s the mark of a good team.”
Senior All-American candidate Danuel House finished 2 of 11 from the field, including missing all three of his 3-point attempts.
The Aggies exited the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference in the summer of 2012, and the teams have played twice since then, including a 71-64 Wildcats victory in Kansas City on Dec. 20 of last year.
“We’ll bounce back, and take care of business next game,” Iwundu said.
Alex Caruso tallied season-highs in assists (nine) and steals (six). . Kennedy said freshman forward Elijah Thomas wasn’t on the bench because of “personal issues” and Kennedy said he hoped Thomas would return soon.
Despite the double-digit loss, KSU doubled up A&M in offensive rebounds (16 to 8). In doing so, the Wildcats nearly doubled up the Aggies on second-chance points (19 to 10). The Wildcats also won the overall rebounding battle (35 to 31) . A&M starting point guard Anthony Collins played 14 minutes after he got in early foul trouble, and only attempted one shot from the field (a made 3-pointer) and two free throws (both makes) to finish with an efficient five points.
“It was a game of runs. And they just had too many runs.”
KSU coach Bruce Weber on A&M stretching a lead multiple times.
Texas A&M hosts Baylor on Saturday.
Kansas State plays at Colorado State on Saturday.