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Still Dancing: Diarra's buzzer-beater propels Aggies past Florida, 83-80

March 10, 2022
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Press conference video courtesy of the Southeastern Conference.


TAMPA — A billboard on the highway leading to downtown Tampa claims local theme park Busch Gardens has the best roller coasters in America.

But Busch Gardens has nothing on the thrill ride that took place inside Amalie Arena on Thursday morning.

Another Texas A&M basketball game. Another series of twists, turns, climbs and plunges. Another urge to grab a barf bag by the game's end.

Hassan Diarra drilled a three-pointer with less than a second left in overtime to give Texas A&M (21-11) a thrilling 83-80 victory over Florida (19-13) in the second round of the Southeastern Conference postseason basketball tournament.

© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Aggies celebrate Hassan Diarra’s game-winning 3-pointer to ice their SEC Tournament opener against Florida, keeping A&M’s NCAA dreams alive. 

The Aggies, the eighth seed in the SEC tournament, advance to face top-seed Auburn (27-4) on Friday at 11 a.m. CT. A&M fell at Auburn 75-58 on Feb. 12. An upset victory would likely earn the Aggies an NCAA Tournament berth.

The win over Florida might be sufficient to give the Aggies a place in March Madness. It was their sixth victory in their last seven games.

Ironically, their surge began on Feb. 15 with a 56-55 victory over Florida.

“Just another incredible game,” A&M coach Buzz Williams said. “I’m not sure why it works out that way anytime we play Florida, but it’s just an invisible line between winning and losing when we play against coach and his team.”

Actually, the line was clearly visible. And Diarra was behind it at the top-of-the-key when he made the shot that vanquished the Gators.

Troy Landry couldn’t have been more deadly accurate.

“It was planned for me (to take the shot),” said Diarra, who finished with 14 points. “Coach called the play in the time out. He knew my man would tag Henry (Coleman) on a roll, and I would be open.”

Diarra really wasn’t that open.

Florida guard Kowacie Reeves converged at the top of the key, but Diarra was able to get the shot over Reeves’ outstretched left hand with 0.4 seconds to go.

It wasn’t an easy shot. But then again, very little comes easy for A&M in this up-and-down season.

The Aggies led by nine points, 67-58, with less than a minute remaining in regulation.

“How can you respond to adversity? I thought we did an unbelievable job with that. Even in moments when we were a little bit down. You know, going on the eight-game losing streak really taught us how thin the line is between winning and losing."
- A&M forward Henry Coleman III

They went into overtime without leading scorer Quenton Jackson, who fouled out.

They trailed 80-78 and appeared to lose the basketball — and the game — on a questionable call with 38.4 seconds to go.

Despite that, these Aggies — who lost eight straight SEC games before that first win over Florida — found a way to survive and advance.

“I think that’s kind of been our whole season,” said Coleman, who led the Aggies with 22 points, eight rebounds and had five of the team’s 15 steals. “Coach always talks about our ‘R’ — our response. How can you respond to adversity?

“I thought we did an unbelievable job with that, even in moments when we were a little bit down.

“You know, going on the eight-game losing streak really taught us how thin the line is between winning and losing, so you try to have that ‘R’ always in the back of your mind. How can you respond to these adverse moments? I thought we did an unbelievable job with that.”

True. But stressed-out Aggies, who have endured so many nail-biters, would rather A&M use another ‘R’ word.

How about ‘Rout’?

The Aggies held a 62-49 advantage when Diarra beat the shot clock with a high-arching trey with 5:39 to play. They seemed to have clinched the win when Wade Taylor IV converted a pair of free throws for a 67-58 lead with 1:07 showing.

But a series of A&M miscues enabled Florida to forge a 70-70 tie on Reeves’ three-pointer with 17.6 seconds left in regulation.

Then, in overtime, the Gators held an 80-78 lead with 48.4 seconds to go when official Steven Anderson ruled Tyrece Radford lost an in-bounds pass from Diarra out of bounds.

Baseline official Pat Adams disagreed. Replays confirmed Florida’s Phlandrous Fleming fouled Radford.

© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Diarra played hero on Thursday, hitting the biggest shot of his collegiate career.

Radford then converted the free throws to force a tie. Then, Fleming’s three-point attempt wedged between the rim and backboard.

That gave A&M the basketball with 17.7 seconds to play.

The Aggies looked to Diarra, who hit a game-winning three-pointer against Abilene Christian and two clutch free throws in a victory over Missouri.

“We wanted the ball in Boot’s (Radford’s) hands,” Williams said. “We were trying to predetermine what their ball screen coverage was and put them in a precarious position on the strong side, which would allow Hass to be open on the shake.

“We had run the play before we just ran it to the other side because Boots is left-handed. I trust Radford to make the right decision, and obviously, Hass has made multiple big shots this season.”

None were more thrilling than this one.

Discussion from...

Still Dancing: Diarra's buzzer-beater propels Aggies past Florida, 83-80

2,972 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 5 mo ago by el_guapo
txag72
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AG
Coach Buzz is one unique individual, not to mention collegiate coach.
txag72
citizenkane06
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el_guapo
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To infinity and beyond!
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