OKLAHOMA CITY — Danuel House scored 20 points as Texas A&M pulled away in the second half to win its first NCAA Tournament game since 2010 with a 92-65 first-round victory over Green Bay on Friday night.
House was 8 of 12 from the field and hit a pair of 3-pointers for Texas A&M, which shot 56.1 percent (32 of 57) in a comfortable victory over the 14th seed.
Khalil Small scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Horizon League Tournament champion Phoenix (23-13), who were making their first tournament appearance in 20 years, while Jamar Hurdle added 11 in the loss.
Tonny Trocha-Morelos added 15 points for the Aggies, while Tyler Davis had 12 and Jalen Jones and Admon Gilder 11 each in the victory.
After trailing by as many as eight points early, Texas A&M (27-8) closed the first half on a 27-11 run and led 41-33 at halftime.
The Aggies pushed their lead to 57-39 early in the second half after an inside basket by Tavario Miller — capping a 43-17 run that all-but secured the school’s first NCAA tourney win since a first-round victory over Utah State in 2010.
Texas A&M’s tournament appearance was its first since 2011, and its No. 3 seed matched the highest in school history. Led by House and the dominating inside presence of 6-foot-10 freshman Davis, the Aggies lived up to their pre-tournament billing by winning for the ninth time in their last 10 games.
On a day when second-seeded Michigan State was shocked by Middle Tennessee State, the Aggies’ inexperience and higher-seeded target didn’t slow them from earning a decisive win — one in which the Southeastern Conference runners-up outrebounded Green Bay 45-25 and scored 46 points inside the paint.
Green Bay entered the game fueled by the up-tempo style of first-year coach Linc Darner, whose motto of “RP40” — Relentless Pressure for 40 minutes — helped the Phoenix to a school-record 344 steals for the season entering Friday.
That pressure gave Texas A&M all kinds of fits early, with Green Bay forcing nine turnovers by the Aggies in less than eight minutes to open the game. The Phoenix turned those miscues into 10 points and took a 22-14 lead after Tevin Findlay’s putback capped a 12-0 run before the Aggies responded.
Green Bay: Phoenix forward Kerem Kanter likely had insider knowledge about playing inside Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Arena on Friday, given that his older brother, Enes, plays for the Thunder. The 6-foot-9 sophomore finished with five points in 11 minutes.
Texas A&M: Aggies senior Anthony Collins was the lone player in the game with previous NCAA Tournament experience, having played for South Florida in 2012. The guard played 25 minutes on Friday and had two points, three assists and three steals.
Texas A&M faces the winner of the Northern Iowa-Texas game on Sunday.