COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M fell behind by 11 points to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi just after halftime on Sunday night, but coach Buzz Williams liked the response of his first Aggies team.
“I didn’t feel like guys were trying to back up,” Williams said. “I felt like they were trying to run toward the fight.”
Emanuel Miller scored 20 points and the Aggies erased that double-digit deficit to beat the Islanders 63-60. After fighting over the first 11 minutes of the second half to regain an early lead they had relinquished, the Aggies (4-5) finally snatched it back at 48-47 on an alley-oop slam dunk by Josh Nebo on a perfect lob from Andre Gordon with 8:53 left in the game.
The teams then traded leads before the last minute of action put a scattering of fans in Reed Arena on the edges of their seats. Gordon made two free throws with 35 seconds remaining to lift the Aggies to a 60-58 lead, and Savion Flagg made the first of two free throws with nine seconds remaining to help put away the relentless Islanders.
The Islanders’ Jashawn Talton was called for traveling following his rebound of Flagg’s miss on the second free throw and the Aggies escaped with the victory.
“I’m disappointed for our guys, because we played well enough to win,” Islanders coach Willis Wilson said. “The difference down the stretch is A&M did a good job of trusting the things they do. … I like the direction we’re going, my biggest disappointment is just the loss.”
The Islanders (4-6) jumped to a 31-24 halftime lead thanks to 18 points from Jordan Hairston, and he wound up with 25 points. The freshman guard made 6 of 7 from the field in the first half, with all the offerings from 3-point range.
The Aggies snapped a four-game losing streak that included setbacks to Harvard, Temple, Fairfield and Texas.
“We needed this pretty bad,” Aggies guard Jay Jay Chandler said. “In the locker room we said it had been since Nov. 20 the last time we got a win. Every game matters now.”
Texas A&M Corpus Christi: Despite the loss the Islanders have plenty to build upon after leading at a Southeastern Conference program by 11 points in the second half. The Islanders have won four of their last six games, and left College Station feeling good about their chances in the Southland Conference this season.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are seemingly scraping rock bottom in their first season under Williams — at least they hope so. They trailed by double digits against an in-state Southland foe before finally stirring before a small crowd. At this rate the Aggies will be fortunate to win an SEC game.
Chandler coolly drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key even though an Islanders defender inadvertently took out his legs on the release. Chandler also made the resulting free throw from the collision, pulling the Aggies within one at 44-43 with 12:12 left in the game.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Aggies made 18 of 23 free throws (78.3%) compared to 10 of 16 by the Islanders (62.5%), what Wilson dubbed the difference in the tight contest.
HE SAID IT
“If there are a lot of holes in the boat, sometimes you don’t know which ones you need to plug up first.”
Buzz Williams on remedying the Aggies’ multiple deficiencies.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is at Nicholls on Wednesday.
Texas A&M hosts Oregon State on Saturday.