COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Three times No. 20 Baylor drove out to leads of at least six points and as much as 12 in the first half, but each time Texas A&M came roaring back in front of a Reed Arena crowd of 13,021. Twice A&M came back to take a one-point lead, but it wasn't until the third comeback that the Aggies built a lead of their own on their way to a 78-71 win and their third in a row in Big 12 play.
The Aggies (17-6, 6-3 Big 12) out-rebounded Baylor (17-5, 4-4), the nation's sixth-best team in rebounding margin heading into the game by averaging 8.8 more rebounds than its opponents, 36-26 and shot a season-high 84.8-percent from the free throw line, which masked A&M's dismal day, 22.2-percent (4-18) from the 3-point arc.
"That's a great win. We beat a heck of a basketball team in Baylor, and I think they're really good," said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. "We didn't start the game well and I was over-coaching. I finally got out of their way and they started to play better, and we came back three times and that's hard to do. There is something about this group that they just figure out a way to win games, and who said we can't shoot free throws?"
The turning point for the Aggies in the second half, however, came from behind the 3-point arc and from the player most Aggie fans are used to seeing from long distance - junior guard B.J. Holmes. Holmes has had a tough go from the 3-point arc in Big 12 play this season, and Holmes started 0-3 against the Bears.
Holmes stepped into his first 3-pointer left of center on the arc and knocked it down with 5:19 remaining after senior guard Donald Sloan found him alone on the perimeter to draw the Aggies within one. After Baylor's A.J. Walton hit a three on the other end Holmes was looking for another shot.
Sloan once again penetrated Baylor's zone, drawing in the defense and found Holmes alone at the same spot on the arc again. And Holmes once again drained it.
Then with A&M up three and the shot clock winding down, Holmes' heroics came through once again when he swished another 3-pointer, this time from five feet behind the arc, to give A&M a 72-66 lead with 1:31 remaining. Holmes would finish with 12 points, four assists and two steals.
"In the first half it felt like I was rushing it a little bit, but in the second half my teammates were able to get it to me, Sloan for two of them, and I was able to get it up and put some air under it and it went in," Holmes said. "It was great by Sloan finding me because they were doubling him all night. I shoot it when (Sloan) tells me to shoot it."
Sloan added 20 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists.
The real surprise Saturday came inside the paint where the Aggies dominated Baylor's much heralded frontcourt of Ekpe Udoh, Josh Lomers and Quincy Acy. Lomers wasn't much of a factor after he picked up four fouls in 11 minutes, and didn't return after picking up his fourth after receiving an excessive control foul after stepping on A&M senior forward Bryan Davis early in the second half.
Udoh, however, started hot with 14 points and three rebounds in the first half as he initially ran the show in the paint. But the second half was a much different story as Udoh was held to five points and one rebounds while A&M's duo of Davis and David Loubeau took over.
Davis would score a team-high 22 points, shooting 8-9 from the free throw line, with eight rebounds while Loubeau added 13 points and five rebounds. Just like the duo in a home win over Texas Tech last Saturday both had more offensive rebounds than defensive rebounds.
"It wasn't just me individually on defense (on Udoh). It was a team effort," Davis said. "I was able to force him to one side of the court and one time I think Khris (Middleton) came over and helped and we got a big turnover, and towards the end of the game it was just an effort of team defense of me, Loubeau and Ray Turner got in and had to guard him. We all did a pretty solid job."
Adding more to the frontcourt was freshman Ray Turner who played a season-high 10 minutes. The athletic fish that brought the Aggies to life at Missouri with a monster dunk off a steal fueled an Aggie comeback in the first half.
Turner had seven points, two rebounds and a block in six first-half minutes and added three more rebounds in four minutes of action in the second half.
"I knew he was athletic. He's such a better play than I thought I was getting and he's such a smart basketball player," Turgeon said about Turner. "Unfortunately there are just so many things that he has to learn and that he didn't have a chance to learn because he didn't have a chance to practice, but we don't win the game without him. It was an unbelievable 10 minutes he played and he's changing our team. We're becoming a bigger team and I can't imagine where we would be as a team right now if he would have been able to practice from the beginning of the year."
With the win the Aggies find themselves tied with Kansas State in the Big 12 standing in second place at 6-3, 2.5 games back from first place and No. 1 Kansas (8-0). A&M gets the week off before traveling to Texas Tech (15-7, 3-5) Saturday with tip off at the United Spirit Arena set for 4 p.m. on ESPN2.