The Aggies were up by 13 early in the second half when they used a 13-2 run to extend the lead to 55-31 with 15 minutes to go. Taylor scored the first five points in that stretch, and he and Hefner made consecutive 3s to cap the key spurt.
Taylor, the preseason Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, went to the bench for good a couple minutes later with Texas A&M in control. He had six assists and four rebounds in 22 minutes.
“I thought it was the right and best first step and I think a lot of it comes from what we’ve learned the past two weeks,” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said.
Taylor made four 3-pointers and Hefner had three, helping the Aggies go 11 for 28 from deep.
Taylor wasn't surprised by Hefner's big game after watching the senior's work in the offseason.
“I felt like today was his coming-out party,” Taylor said.
Hefner is ready to take on a bigger role this season.
“I feel like there’s a lot more that’s going to be asked of me,” he said.
Williams was impressed with Hefner's work Monday night.
“H has had great growth,” Williams said. “He’s done a really good job of hanging in there through his first three years. He’s made great strides in what we want him to do on the glass. I thought he played outstanding.”
Texas A&M-Commerce was led by Jerome Brewer Jr., who had 13 points. Kalen Williams finished with 10.
The Aggies entered this season ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 for the first time since coming in at No. 25 in 2018 in coach Billy Kennedy’s second-to-last season. That season ended with a loss in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tourney.
They’re hoping to take another step in the fifth season under Williams after reaching the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2018.
Texas A&M-Commerce used an 11-0 spurt to close to 20-18 with about nine minutes left in the first half. But the Aggies went on an 11-4 run, including six points from Hefner, to stretch the lead to 31-22 with five minutes until halftime.
THOUGHTS BACK HOME
Texas A&M-Commerce coach Jaret von Rosenberg was with the team after spending time caring for his wife, Sarah, after she had a stroke last month.
Monday was the first day since her stroke on Oct. 13 that he hasn't seen her, and he became emotional when discussing the difficulties of being away while she remains hospitalized.
“She doing better,” he said. “She's able to talk and communicate and she might be watching so: ‘I love you.’”
He said he hopes his team learns from what his family is going through.
“I think it's a good lesson for them,” he said. “Sometimes you've got stuff in your life, but once everything's OK at home, you've got to go ... and take care of your job.”
The Aggies played well against a lesser opponent but will need to improve after Monday's slow start as they face tougher competition on the road starting Friday.
Texas A&M-Commerce: Visits Texas Tech on Wednesday before a trip to No. 16 Kentucky on Friday night.
Texas A&M: Visits Ohio State on Friday before a trip to SMU on Tuesday.
AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll
Copyright 2024 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.