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No 'callback' necessary: A&M out-physicals Ole Miss in Nashville, 80-71

March 14, 2024

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When your back has been against the wall for two weeks, another two minutes isn’t a big deal.

That was obvious on Thursday night.

In the final two minutes, Texas A&M (19-13) converted clutch free throw after clutch free throw to secure a crucial 80-71 victory over Ole Miss in the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament.

The Aggies’ victory kept alive NCAA Tournament hopes, which have been on life support since A&M lost to South Carolina, 70-68, on Feb. 28.

At that point, A&M was just 6-9 in the SEC standings with three games remaining in the regular season. Another loss would virtually end all hope for March Madness.

The Aggies responded with three consecutive wins.

Yet, the threat of defeat filled Bridgestone Arena when Ole Miss rallied from a 13-point deficit to pull within 61-58 with just two minutes remaining.

“I didn’t think we were rattled. I think we handled the press offense very well. We never turned it over. We did a good job making free throws.”
- A&M head coach Buzz Williams

The Aggies had faced pressure situations like this before. Too often, they cracked.

A&M lost to Vanderbilt and Arkansas on buzzer-beating baskets. The Aggies fell to South Carolina on the last shot. They went scoreless over the final three minutes in a 71-68 loss to Ole Miss at Reed Arena.

This time, the Aggies never flinched.

Tyrece Radford drained two free throws to give A&M breathing room. Andersson Garcia did, too. Then Wade Taylor IV hit two, and then he hit two more. And then Manny Obaseki did, too.

Overall, A&M converted 17-of-20 free throws in the final minute and 48 seconds.

“It started to get close, but coach Buzz (Williams) has us shooting 100 free throws a day,” Radford said. “All we had to do was step to the line, take our time and knock down the free throws.

“Ole Miss made big-time plays later in the game, but we did good keeping our composure.”

Williams agreed.

“I do think that there was a level of poise and a level of calmness,” Williams said. “I didn’t think our execution after a made free throw was very good defensively.

“I didn’t think we were rattled. I think we handled the press offense very well. We never turned it over. We did a good job making free throws.”

That wasn’t all.

The Aggies also did an amazing job on the boards, especially the offensive glass. A&M held a whopping 48-32 advantage in rebounds. Of those, 21 were on the offensive end, leading to 21 second-chance points.

The Aggies also scored 13 points off 12 Ole Miss turnovers, took five more shots and limited the Rebels to 29 percent shooting (9 of 31) from 3-point range.

Taylor scored 20 points. Radford had 18. Solomon Washington scored 13 points and had nine rebounds before fouling out with 2:57 remaining. Obaseki had 12 points — his fifth straight game in double figures. Garcia had a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds, eight of which were offensive boards.

With the win, the Aggies have now won their last three opening-round games in the SEC Tournament.

The Aggies played like a team that deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament.

They played like a team capable of again beating Kentucky, A&M’s quarterfinal opponent on Friday night.

A&M defeated Kentucky, 97-92, at Reed Arena in January. It may take another victory over the Wildcats to get in the NCAA Tournament.

But the Aggies still have a chance.

“Today wasn’t any different than it's been since we were 6-9,” Williams said. “We have had reps where there’s not a choice. We call it callbacks. In the fall, everything is measured, and if we don’t meet the quota, so to say, it’s a callback. In other words, it doesn’t count.

“So, we’ve been saying there are no callbacks. If you don’t meet the quota, we can’t come back. They’ve taken that on. There are no callbacks.”

And no Ole Miss comeback.

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No 'callback' necessary: A&M out-physicals Ole Miss in Nashville, 80-71

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BigJim49 AustinNowDallas
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