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Buzz Williams
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Rick Barnes
Texas A&M Basketball

Ags make emphatic statement in dominant upset of No. 6 Vols, 85-69

February 11, 2024
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On Saturday night, Texas A&M all but clinched an invitation to the “Big Dance.”

The Aggies did so with a spectacular display of Boots scootin’.

More accurately, it was an impressive display of Boots shootin’.

Yet, Tyrece “Boots” Radford, who scored a game-high 27 points, wasn’t a lone star in A&M’s stunning 85-69 Southeastern Conference basketball victory over Tennessee before a sellout crowd at Reed Arena.

He had plenty of help as the Aggies (15-8, 6-4 SEC) thoroughly dominated the sixth-ranked Volunteers (17-6, 7-3 SEC) to claim their third consecutive victory and fifth in six games.

Wade Taylor IV poured in 25 points and seven assists. Solomon Washington had 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Andersson Garcia yanked down 17 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end.

And the Aggies as a whole — while rotating defenders to frustrate Tennessee star Dalton Knecht —kept the high-scoring Volunteers in neutral most of the game.

Knecht, among the SEC’s top scorers, finished with 22 points. But 10 came in the final four-and-a-half minutes when the Volunteers were futilely trying to rally from an 18-point deficit.

You might say the Volunteers ran into a Buzz saw.

Zoe Kelton, TexAgs
A&M is now 8-11 all-time against Tennessee with back-to-back upset victories over the Vols at Reed Arena.

“Offensively, we made some unique adjustments we’ve never done. Defensively, we did the same,” said A&M head coach Buzz Williams, who declined to reveal exactly what those adjustments were.

“If they play without (Knecht), they’re good enough to beat us,” Williams continued. “We had to make unique adjustments that our staff was spot on with. Our guys absorbed it. As the game was going, those adjustments were helpful, and then we began to expand on it. Any time that’s happening, that’s a sign of great growth for your group.”

In their most impressive performance of the season, the Aggies never trailed. They led by as much as 22 points and never let Tennessee closer than a dozen in the second half.

A&M, which has often struggled from 3-point range, hit 11 times behind the arc. They also outrebounded the taller Volunteers, 43-35. The Aggies finished with 14 offensive boards.

Meanwhile, Tennessee shot just 37.1 percent (23-for-63). The Vols’ longest run was six points. They did that once.

It was a showing that figures to have secured the Aggies a place in the field of the NCAA Tournament (aka ‘The Big Dance’), provided they do not have a late-season collapse.

It marks A&M’s fifth Quadrant 1 victory. They’ve beaten the No. 6 ranked team for a second time. Kentucky was ranked No. 6 when A&M toppled the Wildcats, 97-92, on Jan. 13.

Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes is convinced A&M is worthy of making the NCAA Tournament.

“No doubt,” Barnes said. “I think we’ve (the SEC) got 10 or 11 teams that, when it’s all said and done, are NCAA teams. I think we’ve got the best basketball league in the country, and I don’t think it’s close. I don’t care what anybody says.”

Williams, however, won’t even entertain the thought. He’s apparently still miffed — and rightly so — that last season A&M was a mere No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, even with late victories over then-No. 11 Tennessee and No. 2 Alabama.

“We always talk about throwing the first punch. I think we did tonight that in both halves. I think we were aggressive the whole game, and I think that kind of overwhelmed them towards the end.”
- A&M junior guard Wade Taylor IV

“When we played them last year, we were 12-2 when they were 11th in the country, and we were still a seventh seed,” Williams said. “I have literally said ‘no’ to every possible distraction because I just think you’re on a hamster wheel, and it doesn’t solve anything.”

The visiting Vols never could solve the Aggies’ puzzle.

A&M hit eight times from 3-point range in the first half. They held a 30-16 lead after Taylor drilled a trey with 8:29 left in the half to cap a 12-1 run.

“We always talk about throwing the first punch,” Taylor said. “I think we did tonight that in both halves. I think we were aggressive the whole game, and I think that kind of overwhelmed them towards the end.”

True, the Aggies punched first and kept punching.

The Vols soon were punch drunk.

Tennessee trailed 37-28 with 4:33 remaining in the first half. The Volunteers did not score again until Santiago Vescovi hit a 3-pointer with 15:28 remaining in the game.

That ended a nine-minute scoring drought. By then, the Aggies had opened a huge lead. The lead peaked at 53-31 on a Radford trey with 13:48 left to play.

“I know we were up a certain amount of points, I still felt like it was one-possession because of how good Tennessee is,” Taylor said. “We know they can make a run any time.

“So, we kind of went to just play-by-play to make sure we got a stop, we got a good shot and do all the things we need to do to win.”

Tennessee pulled within 12 twice, but on one occasion, Jace Carter answered with a 3-pointer. On another occasion, Washington responded with two free throws.

That started a run of eight consecutive free throws to help stave off any possibility of a Tennessee rally.

“Just keep going,” Radford said. “Don’t take the foot off the gas. We came into the game knowing they’re going to make tough shots. Knowing who is their shooters, who is going to get the rebounds. We just had to stay true to who we are.”

Discussion from...

Ags make emphatic statement in dominant upset of No. 6 Vols, 85-69

6,360 Views | 7 Replies | Last: 2 mo ago by G Hunny Ag
AggieRain
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Noctilucent
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AG
Great game, Ags. Whoop!
Caesar4
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BuckshotJ
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Great victory for the Ags!
agent-maroon
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el_guapo
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"Boots scooting',
Buzz saw, and
Punch drunk"

Nice,
Nice, and
Niiiiice
G Hunny Ag
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I smiled the entire time I read this article Olin. What a fun win.
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