Tyler Davis was stunned to see the scoreboard displaying an 11-point deficit with so much at stake for his squad.
But that first-half lowlight also marked the turning point as No. 20 Texas A&M received 19 points from senior guard Danuel House while posting an 81-63 victory over Auburn on Tuesday night in Southeastern Conference play in Auburn, Ala.
"We came out a little lackadaisical at first," said Davis, a freshman center, "but we turned it on and got the job done."
Senior forward Jalen Jones added 16 points and eight rebounds as the Aggies won their fifth straight. Davis contributed 14 points and nine rebounds as Texas A&M (23-7, 12-5) remained tied for first place in the SEC with Kentucky.
The Aggies hold the tiebreaker edge after beating the Wildcats on Feb. 20 and will win the regular-season championship if they defeat visiting Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Texas A&M hasn't won or shared a conference title since claiming part of the former Southwest Conference championship in 1985-86.
"We all know how big a game Saturday is" Aggies coach Billy Kennedy said. "We're going to enjoy this one and prepare for Vanderbilt tomorrow."
Auburn (11-18, 5-12) has dropped 10 of its last 12 games. Senior forward Tyler Harris had 20 points and eight rebounds and sophomore guard TJ Lang added 10 points.
The defeat marked the fifth time this season the Tigers have lost by more than 20 points.
Texas A&M controlled the boards and finished with a 51-27 advantage, including 21 offensive rebounds to Auburn's 20 defensive boards. The Aggies had a 38-24 edge in points in the paint.
"There's no excuse for 21 offensive rebounds to 20 defensive rebounds. None," Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said. "They just physically dominated us and there's no excuse for that."
Davis said Texas A&M's game plan included establishing rebounding superiority over the Tigers.
"It's the mentality we came out with and we've got to every rebound we can," Davis said. "We've got to win the intangibles. We've got to make the hustle plays and get more rebounds than they do and every game we focus on winning the war in the paint. You win those on the road, you usually win the road games."
Texas A&M struggled in the first 14 1/2 minutes before controlling the remainder of the game.
The Aggies trailed by eight points with three minutes left in the first half before rolling off the next 20 points to take a 45-33. The burst included the initial 12 points of the second half with House scoring seven of the points on two free throws, a mammoth dunk and a 3-pointer.
Texas A&M boosted its lead to 52-38 on a 3-point basket by freshman guard Admon Gilder with 13:58 remaining. Gilder drained another 3-pointer with 8:32 remaining to make it 68-48.
The Aggies' lead topped out at 22 points.
"We figured out a way to win," Kennedy said. "That's what good teams do."
Jones scored 10 first-half points and the Aggies rallied from an 11-point deficit to forge a 33-33 tie at the break.
Texas A&M led 16-12 on Jones' dunk seven minutes into the game before its shooting went cold. The Aggies missed their next 12 from the field and the Tigers took advantage by rattling off 12 consecutive points.
Freshman guard Bryce Brown's 3-pointer gave Auburn a one-point lead with 12:23 left in the half and senior forward Jordon Granger also knocked one down to make it 22-16 with 7:47 to play. Senior forward Cinmeon Bowers capped the run with an inside basket before Texas A&M senior guard Alex Caruso converted a three-point play with 6:49 to play.
Another 3-point by Granger increased the Tigers' advantage to 29-19 with 6:08 left and the lead reached 11 before the Aggies scored the next six points. Texas A&M later rolled off the final eight points of the half to tie the score at 33 when senior point guard Anthony Collins hit a jumper in the lane with 1:10 left.
Texas A&M shot just 34.1 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes but held a 32-12 rebounding edge.
"To be tied at the half shows you we haven't laid down," Pearl said of his struggling team. "But I'm very, very disappointed we weren't able to play more effectively."
NOTES: Tornado warning sirens were repeatedly going off inside the arena during the final eight minutes of the first half because of inclement weather in the area. "It was kind of weird when it first happened," said Auburn senior F Tyler Harris, "but then you just got used to it." ... Tigers senior F Cinmeon Bowers had just four points and five rebounds after recording double-doubles in five of the previous seven games. ... Texas A&M senior G Alex Caruso had seven assists to raise his school-record count to 613. Caruso broke the mark of David Edwards (602 from 1991-94) during Saturday's victory over Missouri. ... Auburn G Bryce Brown has set a school freshman record with 76 3-pointers, which ranks eighth on the school's single-season list. ... Aggies senior F Jalen Jones has scored 20 or more points 11 times this season.