COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M guard Admon Gilder claimed the Aggies had a slow start Thursday, long before their tipoff against Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

“We had a slow shootaround, which carried over to the game,” Gilder said.

It certainly didn’t carry over for the 5 minutes.

Gilder and fellow guard D.J. Hogg scored 17 points each and the ninth-ranked Aggies used a 16-0 start on the way to a 78-60 victory over UTRGV.

A&M’s sluggishness came in maintaining a wide margin throughout. The Aggies (7-0) only led the Vaqueros (3-6) by seven points with more than 7 minutes remaining before pulling away and staying undefeated on the season.

UTRGV kept the game closer than many had anticipated through 33 minutes based in part on the Aggies’ struggles from the free throw line. A&M made 18 of 30 from the free throw line compared to 11 of 13 for the Vaqueros.

The Vaqueros cut the Aggies’ lead to 57-50 on a short jumper by Mike Hoffman in the lane with 7:30 remaining, but the Aggies quickly responded on the other end when Tyler Davis found Tonny Trocha-Morelos wide open under the basket for a dunk and a nine-point lead.

“We never really established a rhythm and put them away when we should have put them away,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.

Trocha-Morelos’s basket marked the first of nine consecutive points by A&M in putting away the Vaqueros down the stretch.

“We try and take every game the same, but we do have a target on our backs,” Hogg said of the Aggies sliding into the top 10 this week. “Now we’re getting everybody’s best shot.”

UTRGV is coached by Lew Hill, an A&M assistant from 1998-2004 under then-coach Melvin Watkins. Nick Dixon led the Vaqueros with 13 points and Dan Kimasa followed with 12.

A&M has won all of its games by double digits, and despite the overall sluggishness Thursday was no different.

“I told the guys before the game, ‘Hey just come out here and fight and see what happens,'” Hill said. “You have to fight, to give yourself a chance.”

BIG PICTURE

Texas A&M: The Aggies have faced a handful of “name” programs so far this season, so UTRGV playing this one closer than anticipated for much of the game serves as a solid reminder for A&M to not take any opponent for granted.

UTRGV: The Vaqueros, who have lost four straight, can take heart in hanging around with the nation’s No. 9 team for much of the 40 minutes, and certainly will remember playing one of the SEC’s top teams fairly close when it comes time to compete in the WAC.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

The Aggies asserted their dominance inside in holding a 36-12 advantage in points in the paint, proving the biggest difference in the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Texas A&M: The Aggies started the season No. 25, and have steadily climbed since. Considering they will be undefeated at least through Tuesday, they stand a chance of gaining a couple of more spots in the next rankings.

HE SAID IT

“That’s the truth of it, but it can’t be an excuse. Somehow we have to mature through that.” Kennedy on perhaps the Aggies letting down at home against a lesser opponent, after playing a tough road schedule to date.

UP NEXT

Texas A&M: plays Arizona on Tuesday in the Valley of the Sun Shootout in Phoenix.

UTRGV: plays at Rice on Saturday.