COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Christian Mekowulu and Brandon Mahan each scored 20 points as Texas A&M defeated Valparaiso 71-49 on Wednesday night.
The Aggies (5-4) held a 16-point lead at halftime and the Crusaders (6-6) trailed by double digits the rest of the way, in an anticlimactic second half. Bakari Evelyn led Valpo with 10 points, the lone Crusader to score in double figures.
The Aggies 34-18 at the break, getting 14 first-half points from Mekowulu and holding a 25-15 rebounding advantage in that span.
Mahan and Mekowulu, both transfers, made a combined 15 of 19 from the field, including 8 of 9 by Mekowulu, mostly from in the paint. Mahan was 4-of-7 from 3-point range, while Valpo finished 3 of 22 from behind the arc.
A&M: Senior guard Admon Gilder remains sidelined with an undisclosed health issue, but the Aggies are on a roll without their leader, who might not return this season. Guards TJ Starks, Wendell Mitchell and Mahan are picking up the slack, and Mekowulu is providing some surprising offensive pop inside.
VALPO: The Crusaders earned some valuable experience for Missouri Valley Conference play in taking on a Southeastern Conference foe on the road, despite a sparse setting during the holidays, but getting so far down early can’t be good for their confidence moving forward. Fortunately for Valpo it faces Division II Purdue Northwest at home prior to cranking up league play.
A&M plays host to Marshall on Saturday in trying to win five consecutive games for the first time since November of last year.
Valpo takes a break for Christmas and then plays host to Purdue Northwest on Dec. 29.