By Kristie Rieken
Associated Press Sports Writer
COLLEGE STATION — Texas A&M played so well without two of its starters in a close loss to No. 6 Baylor on Wednesday night that Aggies coach Billy Kennedy might consider his options after they get healthy.
“Those guys who are coming back, they better be ready to work and earn their spots back because I like how these guys have risen to the challenge and it just makes us a better team,” Kennedy said.
Pierre Jackson hit a 3-pointer with 17 seconds remaining to put Baylor on top and added two free throws to give the Bears a 63-60 victory.
The Bears (20-2, 7-2 Big 12) were up by four points with 5 minutes left before A&M used a 9-3 run capped by a short jump shot by David Loubeau to take a 60-58 lead with 29 seconds remaining.
Jackson’s second 3 of the game put the Bears on top before A&M’s Elston Turner missed a 3-pointer forcing the Aggies (12-9, 3-6) to foul.
Kennedy said Turner’s shot wasn’t what they were looking for on that play.
“We tried to get him isolated at the top,” Kennedy said. “Pierre got the same shot at the top of the key, and he made it.”
Jackson missed his first free throw attempt, but was fouled again after the rebound and made the insurance shots.
The Aggies were without second-leading scorer Khris Middleton (right knee) for the third straight game and point guard Dash Harris (right foot) for the second. Kennedy said Monday that he hoped Harris could play, but when he appeared on crutches during warmups it became apparent that he would sit out again.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons and we made them have to use them,” Kennedy said. “I’m proud of the way our guys competed in a difficult situation.”
Loubeau had 16 points for Texas A&M, while Daniel Alexander finished with 12 points and six rebounds and Ray Turner had 13 points. The Bears were able to limit Elston Turner, who had scored at least 23 points in three straight games, to eight points.
“We have to build from here,” Ray Turner said. “It was a tough game, now we can’t let it bring us down for the next game. We just move on from here and try to get the next one.”
The win gives Baylor its first 7-2 conference start since 1968-69 and its fourth 20-win season in the last five.
Baylor has won five straight over the Aggies in this rivalry which has been played every year since 1930-31 but is in jeopardy with Texas A&M leaving for the Southeastern Conference.
The Bears got 15 points from Perry Jones III and Jackson finished with 14 points and five assists. Quincy Acy added 11 points and Quincy Miller had 11 rebounds and nine points.
The Bears were down by five before scoring nine consecutive points to take a 53-49 lead with 6 minutes remaining. Acy had two dunks in that span to quiet the crowd a bit.
The Bears led by nine points early in the second half before A&M used a 14-3 run to take a 44-42 lead with about 12 minutes remaining. Alexander started the spurt with a 3-pointer and A&M had two steals which ended with easy layups to keep it going.
Anthony Jones had a tip-in for Baylor to tie it before A&M scored five straight points, led by a dunk by Loubeau, to take a 49-44 lead with about 10 minutes left.
Things got testy in this one with Loubeau and Acy having to be separated by teammates and officials after two other players tussled on the court for a loose ball midway through the second half.
Acy was impressed with A&M’s performance on Wednesday while playing shorthanded.
“Those are two of their better players and they showed a lot of heart and that says a lot about them and their coach,” he said.
Baylor used a 16-5 run to take a 31-23 lead about 3 minutes before halftime. The Bears led 36-25 at halftime.