What a difference a year makes.
Last year, we took Kentucky to double overtime and lost an absolute heartbreaker at Reed Arena, but this year we finished the job. What changed?
In a word: everything.
I'm going to have a really tough time explaining this... but there was just an energy to the building the moment I walked in. Having College Gameday on campus certainly didn't hurt, but I was really impressed by the buzz all the same, even forty minutes prior to tip off. There was also a far, far less noticeable contingent of Big Blue Nation compared to last year, which was nice to see. They were still the biggest visiting fanbase of the season... but that's just what they do. Their traveling support might be the best in all of College Basketball.
As for the Aggies in the building... in their minds, there was no recent losing streak. No frustration with the direction of the program, no half-hearted "we'll probably win but BAS is a thing" vibe, none of that. It was 12,500 people locked the fuck in.
Honestly, that's a huge part of what I love about Texas A&M. Lucy may pull the ball away from us time and time again, but we always get up, dust ourselves off, and try again. Even when we know it's kinda dumb. Especially when we know it's kinda dumb, actually. We never stop.
That relentless optimism was a palpable emotion in the air yesterday, and it was a big part of what made the evening so special.
The Talent Level
The team then did their part. 2015 had a very "punching above our weight" feel, but it was clear to everyone in attendance that the 2016 teams were evenly matched. That upped the ante.
And then, holy crap... what a game. This wasn't just a close game, it was a close game played at an insanely high level. Very few turnovers, very few bad shots, and some really solid execution by both squads for the full forty minutes. The only complaint one could really have was A&M's free throw shooting. (Which was awful. But who cares win woooooooo)
Both squads brought their A game, and the quality of play was captivating. The crowd had ebbs and flows, sure, but the base energy never really went down. Not even for a second. The big game feel never dropped.
The Stars Were Out
Von was there, of course... but he wasn't alone. The entire DeSoto crew (Von, Cyrus Gray, Tony Jerod-Eddie, and DaMontre Moore) sat courtside, and Acie Law IV (who seems to be there for every big win) was in the building as well.
The pre-game locker room speech? By Von Freaking Miller.
Video: Von Miller on what he told the A&M basketball team just prior to tip, in OT win over Kentucky: pic.twitter.com/4ffoIcOXm8— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) February 21, 2016
Add that to the College Gameday booth and the associated big CBB announcing names, and the 'Big Event' feel got even bigger.
(One other note: the Halftime Entertainment? Oh, nothing big, just Frisbee Dogs. The best halftime show ever created.)
A Student Body Starved For Big Wins
I'm going to drop some unfortunate football numbers here, but only as a mechanism to explain the raw, almost visceral release of emotion that came with Davis' game winner.
- The Freshman on campus are 2-2 in SEC games played at Kyle Field.
- The Sophomores on campus? 2-5.
- The Juniors? 4-7. With losses in the five biggest home games (2013 Alabama, 2013 Auburn, 2014, Ole Miss, 2014 LSU, 2015 Alabama) they've seen.
- Even the Seniors, who were here for Johnny's magical season, had to witness losses in the two biggest home games of the year (Florida and LSU, of course).
When you add it all up... these kids haven't seen a truly big win on campus. They haven't. That in-person experience of an all-day buildup followed by a Texas A&M win was new for the entire student body.
With that in mind, we leave you with the best videos we could find from the best night on campus in years.
Relax, watch, and enjoy. And get to Reed this Wednesday night for the last game (MSU) in our three game homestand.
Video: My view of Tyler Davis's game-winner against Kentucky: pic.twitter.com/T7KvixrN1O— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) February 21, 2016
Texas A&M upsets No. 14 Kentucky with THIS clutch buzzer-beater by Tyler Davis. https://t.co/4WmxXqsr5E— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 21, 2016
More clutch. Tyler Davis scores at the buzzer to win it for Texas A&M! https://t.co/r5JWDc8rHN— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) February 21, 2016
THE GAME WINNER! A&M with the win over Kentucky! pic.twitter.com/k53YN4SSQC— SAMMM☀️ (@justsaysam) February 21, 2016
Video: Von Miller 'saws 'em off' after Texas A&M beats Kentucky in OT: pic.twitter.com/HqxJFjLtLy— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) February 21, 2016