After a disappointing snub by the NCAA Selection Committee on Sunday, Texas A&M returned to Reed Arena to host the first round of the NIT against Alcorn State. After an exhilirating four day run in the SEC tournament, the Aggies looked weary and almost disinterested in the first half. However, a second half surge invigorated the Ags and propelled Buzz Williams’s squad to a 74-62 victory and a second round showdown against the Oregon Ducks.
Alcorn (17-16, 14-4) finished the regular season as the regular season champions of theSouthwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), but the Braves lost to Texas Southern in the finals of the SWAC tournament.
Both teams struggled to score early as the game remained deadlocked at 0-0 for the first four minutes. While A&M struggled to make shots in the first half, Alcorn State looked up to the challenge, dominating the boards both offensively and defensively, holding a 22-12 rebounding edge at halftime. However, the Braves couldn’t capitalize on the Aggies’ struggles offensively and on the glass, leaving the score tied 27-27 at the half.
A&M looked energized coming out of the break and utilized a 10-3 run in the first four minutes of the second half to open their first substantial lead of the game. The Aggies would never trail again, riding a series of runs to drive the lead up to as many as 18 points. The Ags started attacking the paint and forcing Alcorn State to foul. In the most remarkable stat of the night, Texas A&M shot 26-28 from the free throw line for the game, going a perfect 22-22 from the stripe in the second half. The Ags shot 41.5% from the field on 53 attempts while holding the Braves to 38.8% on 67 attempts. A&M also showed a commitment to rebounding in the second half, erasing Alcorn State’s advantage on the boards. Despite a sloppy run of play in the closing three minutes, Alcorn State never really challenged, and the Aggies coasted to victory.
Boots Radford was A&M’s star for the night, picking up his first double-double since coming to Aggieland with 14 points and 14 rebounds. He also added 3 steals and 2 assists for good measure. Wade Taylor and Quenton Jackson contributed 12 points and 10 points respectively. Despite only scoring 4 points, Javonte Brown was very active in the second half and was a perfect 4-4 from the line.
Texas A&M will return to action this weekend against the Oregon Ducks, who knocked off Utah State in Logan, Utah in their NIT opener, 83-72. The Ducks currently sit at 20-14 on the season and finished Pac-12 play with an 11-9 record. The Aggies’ and Ducks’ only common opponent was Oregon State. The Aggies pounded the Beavers 83-73 in December, while the Ducks swept all three matchups against a woeful Oregon State. The game will most likely be slated for Saturday at Reed Arena, but the official schedule for the second round of the NIT has not been released. We’ll provide an update once the details are published.