By Kristie Rieken/The Associated Press
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M’s Elston Turner knew something had to change after making just seven of 27 shots in his last two games combined.
So he stayed after each practice this week, remaining at the gym until he made at least 100, and sometimes as many as 150, extra shots a day.
Turner’s hard work was evident Wednesday night, when he had 37 points, including a career-high seven 3-pointers, to give Texas A&M a 69-67 win over Ole Miss.
“It’s been the last couple of games that I haven’t really been comfortable,” Turner said. “So I spent more time just fine-tuning shots. I felt like I was uncomfortable, and that only happens when you’re not shooting enough in the gym. So I just made an effort to stay in the gym … and it’s starting to pay off.”
Derrick Millinghaus made a free throw before the Rebels got the ball back after a shot-clock violation. Millinghaus hit a layup with 44 seconds left to cut A&M’s lead to 67-65.
Turner then hit a jump shot from the corner with 16 seconds left to extend the lead.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy was disappointed with his team’s defense on Turner after the Rebels prepared for him all week.
“We talked for two days about we can’t give him space because he’ll go to his right hand if you give him space,” Kennedy said. “We let him get going early and he played well and made a hard shot at the end.”
It was the most points for Turner since he scored a career-best 40 in a win at Kentucky last month. He set a record for most points at Reed Arena, outdoing the 36 Baylor’s Curtis Jerrells scored in a five-overtime win against A&M in 2008.
Millinghaus made two more free throws with 10 seconds remaining, and the Rebels had to foul three consecutive times to get into the bonus. Star Marshall Henderson fouled out on the last foul in that span.
Turner missed his free throw with 5 seconds left, but Millinghaus, a freshman, missed a shot at the buzzer to give A&M (15-9, 5-6 SEC) the win.
“Derrick didn’t get the cleanest of looks, but he was the one that really kept us within striking range,” Kennedy said of Millinghaus.
Ole Miss (18-6, 7-4) has dropped four of its last five games after opening SEC play 6-0.
Texas A&M held Henderson, who entered the game leading the SEC in scoring with 19.9 points a game, to 10 points. Millinghaus and Reginald Buckner scored 13 points each for Mississippi. Eight of the points by Millinghaus came in the last 4 minutes, and Buckner had 15 rebounds.
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy raved about Turner’s offensive performance, but he was just as impressed by his defense on Henderson.
“Defensively he did a good job, and Alex (Caruso) did a really good job on Marshall Henderson,” he said. “I thought that was critical. Our team was really locked in. We had guys who wanted to guard him.”
It was the fewest points for Henderson since he scored a season-low nine Nov. 20 against McNeese State.
“We tried run him off some baseline screening actions, and Marshall’s got to make hard shots,” Andy Kennedy said. “I didn’t think his decision-making was the best. He had some driving opportunities, tried to force some shots and we were really off-kilter.”
This was only the second meeting between these new conference foes, and the first since an A&M win on Dec. 30, 1972. The Rebels were playing in Texas for the first time since a trip to the NCAA round of 16 in San Antonio in 2001.
Turner bounced back from a terrible shooting performance in Saturday’s loss at Georgia, when he was just 2 of 14 from the floor. But he didn’t realize what a great game he was having until later.
“I just looked up and saw that I had that many points,” he said. “In a close game like that, until it’s over and the team wins, I don’t pay attention to how many points I have.”
Turner’s father, Elston Sr., might have had mixed feelings going into the game. He played on the 1980-81 Mississippi team that made the school’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament, then moved on to an eight-season NBA career.
Fabyon Harris added 13 points and had three steals for Texas A&M.
A 3-point play by Millinghaus got Mississippi within three points with just under 4 minutes left, but a layup by Kourtney Roberson pushed the lead to 67-62 a few seconds later. Mississippi had cut the lead to four points with a layup by Nick Williams before Harris scored four quick points to make it 65-57 with less than 6 minutes remaining.
Texas A&M trailed by one point before using a 6-2 run, with two 3-pointers by Turner in less than a minute, to take a 59-54 lead midway through the second half.
Mississippi led 38-35 at halftime, but Turner opened the second-half with a 3-pointer to tie it. The Aggies were down by two points a few minutes later after a dunk by Buckner before scoring five straight points to take a 49-46 lead, and they didn’t trail again.