COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy offered up a concise invocation when Mississippi’s Breein Tyree tossed up a 3-point attempt from the left of the top of the key late Tuesday night in Reed Arena.
”I was praying that it would bounce out,” Kennedy said. ”And God blessed us with the right bounce.”
The result was a 71-69 Aggies’ win over the Rebels, A&M’s first Southeastern Conference victory in six tries this season.
”Billy Kennedy is a good friend of mine, a good man and a good coach,” Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. ”Sometimes the odds have a way of evening out. We had a guy with a clean look and unfortunately for us it just didn’t go down.”
Fortunately for the Aggies, center Tyler Davis’ final shot did. With the scored tied at 69, Davis missed a short jumper but grabbed the rebound for the putback and a 71-69 A&M lead with 22.7 seconds remaining. That set up the Rebels’ final play with the memorable miss that rattled in and finally out as the crowd exhaled.
A&M (12-6, 1-5 SEC) led 64-62 with 3:19 left when Robert Williams collected an alley-oop pass from Duane Wilson and slammed the ball home. On the other end, Williams blocked a shot following a Rebels’ offensive rebound, and D.J. Hogg caused one of the loudest roars of the night when he drained a 3-pointer from the far right corner to lift A&M to a 69-62 lead with 2:51 left.
That wasn’t enough to stave off the Rebels, however, and the Aggies needed Davis and decent defense to finally close it out. The Rebels (10-8, 3-3) have never won in College Station, falling to 0-3.
The teams played before a good crowd of 10,578 in the 13,000-seat arena considering A&M was closed on Tuesday because of an ice storm that had enveloped the region starting early that morning. On Tuesday afternoon the university offered free parking for all comers and free admission for all A&M students to try and create a home-court advantage.
Two of A&M’s SEC losses have been by a point each, including when LSU’s Tremont Waters sank a 3-pointer in the same area as Tyree’s shot as time expired, lifting the Tigers to a 69-68 victory over A&M on Jan. 6. This time, the ball bounced out.
Texas A&M: The Aggies needed this win in the worst way, considering they had been ranked No. 5 as recently as Dec. 31 before falling to No. 11 and then completely out of the rankings in the last two polls.
Mississippi: The Rebels once again failed to string together consecutive victories since SEC play started, as they’ve traded wins and losses in each of their first six games against their conference brethren.
Texas A&M: The Aggies play their second consecutive game at home when Missouri visits Saturday afternoon, in trying to win two in a row for the first time in SEC play this season.
Mississippi: The Rebels stay on the road for a second straight game when they play at Arkansas on Saturday afternoon, in trying to avoid losing two in a row for the first time against league competition.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The game was closer than it should have been for the Aggies based on their failures at the free-throw line. A&M made a season-low 50 percent (8 of 16).
Texas A&M sophomore Williams had six dunks on the night, most in spectacular fashion for the forward who projects as a first-round selection in the NBA Draft this summer.
HE SAID IT
”That was a crazy shot, it almost went in. That was scary.”
Davis on Tyree’s near game-winner.