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Texas A&M drops a heartbreaker to Alabama 71-70

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TJ Starks was great, but a Collin Sexton buzzer beater sent us home early from the SEC Tournament

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Texas A&M vs Alabama Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

What a punch in the gut.

All looked lost through the middle portion of the second half, but we fought back to take the lead behind a cold-blooded TJ Starks 3 with less than five seconds remaining.

And then, coming out of a timeout, we allowed Alabama’s best player to run coast-to-coast unopposed to sink us at the buzzer.

Let’s break it down.

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Another uninspiring first half

For the second game running against Alabama, we did not shoot well in the first half. We came out of the blocks stronger, but our customary first half swoon was quick to follow. Unlike Saturday, Alabama actually shot pretty well in the first half (50%), and seemed to trend up right as we hit our early offensive troubles. The end result was an opening frame that started promising, but soon felt a little out of reach.

Halftime Score: Alabama 35, Texas A&M 28

It got worse, and then it got better

Tyler Davis and TJ Starks continued to deal with foul trouble early in the second half, and we dealt with it about as well as you’d expect. The Tide used our personnel trouble to keep the lead between six and twelve for the majority of the second half, and it honestly started to feel like we were happy to coast back to College Station and rest up for the NCAA’s.

At this point, Alabama remembered they had lost their last five, and they kinda started to panic. An eight minute stretch with only three points followed, and we were all but invited back into the game with a full place setting. We did our best to refuse that invitation, particularly during a stretch of four straight turnovers late, but the Alabama offensive woes persisted. We used that offensive ineptitude to complete our comeback, and you all know the story from there.

Starks giveth, and Sexton taketh away.

Final Score: Alabama 71, Texas A&M 70

The Final Play

Yeah... we need to talk about that final play.

TJ Starks has just hit a massive three to put us up one, and we call timeout to (presumably) organize the defense ahead of Alabama’s final possession. The first, last, and only topic of conversation during that timeout has to be Collin Sexton - the SEC Freshman of the Year, surefire NBA Lottery Pick, and Person Who Already Had 25 Points.

Let’s watch this again.

I’m going to do my best to count the mistakes we make during this defensive possession but I encourage you all to provide more in the comments.

  1. Tonny Trocha defends the inbounds with nobody behind him. The possession has just begun, and Sexton has a full head of steam, flying towards four defenders. This is a disastrous start.
  2. Gilder should have had help from the beginning. He is assigned to guard Sexton, but he can’t stay in front of him. That’s not Admon’s fault - Sexton is an NBA guard flying as fast as he can.
  3. The off-ball guards (Starks and Flagg)... they just... they don’t really do anything. You can tell they’re concerned with the drive-and-kick, but surely that seems like a better outcome than Collin Sexton at the rim, right?
  4. Speaking of the refusal to collapse on Sexton, that seems like a lack of clock awareness from the bench. As he approaches the three point line, there’s 1.5 seconds remaining. I honestly don’t think that’s enough time to drive, kick, and release. We should have instructed the guys to collapse once Sexton got inside of 25 feet.
  5. Williams, just... he wasn’t ready for the play. I think the early release (necessitated by the clock) threw him for a loop, as he was expecting to be able to take one more step before challenging at the rim. In the end, he was left with a helpless decision. Let the ball go, or swat it and lose the game with a goaltending call.
  6. Overall, it just reeked of a team that had not been sent on to the floor with a cohesive plan. Watching this thing, it just feels like every guy did what they thought was best. You can argue that the individual decisions (guard the inbounds, stick with your man on the wing, prepare to protect the rim from the opposite block) kinda make sense in a vacuum, but the team should have been instructed to defend as a unit designed to get the ball out of Sexton’s hands. All in all, it was a shocking final possession before the NCAA’s.

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We have a stress-free Selection Sunday coming up, which places us in some pretty good College Basketball company. In three days, we learn our fate.

BTHO Everyone