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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

5 takeaways from A&M’s hard-fought battle in NIT Championship

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Junior guard Tyrece Radford (23) as the Aggies’ starting lineup is announced at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, Mar. 31, 2022.

Despite an unfortunate ending, the Texas A&M men’s basketball team had one of the most inspirational and entertaining basketball seasons in the program’s history.
On Thursday, March 31, A&M fell short of securing an NIT Championship 72-73 against Xavier by one hook shot that came in the last seconds of the game.
Here’s what we learned:
Heartbreaking ending
From the 15-2 start to the season, to an eight-game losing streak in the middle of SEC play and to the 7-2 record in the postseason, A&M’s season has been a rollercoaster from the start to the finish and was one hook shot away from putting the perfect cherry on top of an inspirational journey.
With 5.9 seconds left in the championship game, the Aggies were up by one point and were one defensive stop away from bringing home the hardware and spending their last night in the concrete jungle as champions.
After a go-ahead hook shot from a 7-foot Xavier junior forward Jack Nunge, it left A&M with 3.1 seconds to put up one more shot and leave Madison Square Garden victorious. A&M junior guard Tyrece “Boots” Radford drove down the court, threw up a shot and the ball bounced in-and-out of the basket, leaving all the players and fans watching speechless.
“This is my 28th year in college coaching, and I have never experienced anything like what has transpired in our team over the last six weeks,” A&M coach Buzz Williams said. “The belief, the work, the trust, the love between player to player, player to coach, coach to coach, coach to player, has scarred my heart in a way I’ll never forget.”
NIT All-tournament
Despite the loss, two A&M players were rewarded for their noteworthy tournament performances over the past five games.
Graduate guard Quenton Jackson and Radford made the NIT All-Tournament team along with St. Bonaventure’s senior guard Dominick Welch and Xavier’s Nunge and sophomore guard Colby Jones, who was given the NIT Most Outstanding Player award.
Jackson averaged 16 points per game, 2.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds in the NIT. Radford put up equally impressive numbers with 10.8 points per game, 1.4 assists and 9.4 rebounds. Both players averaged over 50% from the field and played over 30 minutes in each game, being well deserving of the award.
Q’s last game
There isn’t a single formula to calculate the amount of effort Jackson left on the floor in the 72-73 loss to Xavier.
From start to finish, Jackson competed non-stop. Even with five minutes left in the game, the Aggies were down by four after a frightening 7-2 run by the Musketeers and all hope of a championship victory seemed to be fading out the front doors of Madison Square Garden. That is when Jackson not only showed his skills, but the size of his heart.
He went on to score seven points, giving A&M the lead with 27 seconds left in the game with two game-tying free throws.
Jackson finished the first half with 14 points, scoring on 50% of his shots. After getting in foul trouble early in the second half, Jackson came back on the court and scored nine more points. He was the game’s leading scorer with 23.
Jackson said his last season playing for A&M basketball is something he will never forget.
“[This season] was epic, historical,” Jackson said. “I’ve never seen or been through something like this in my life. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, but none like this with a group of guys who are completely engulfed with everything going on around us. I love everybody.”
The charity stripe
Every player that has ever played has heard numerous times from their coach that free throws win games.
A&M shot 21-for-25 from the line while Xavier shot 8-for-15; however, the better free throw-shooting team did not win this game. Freshmen guards Wade Taylor IV and Manny Obaseki shot 100% from the penalty line, and Jackson connected on 12 of his 14 shots.
On the other side of the curtains
The team on the opposing bench defied the odds with the limited resources they had.
One of Xavier’s leading scorers, senior guard Paul Scruggs, had an apparent near-injury in the team’s NIT win against Florida. The team wore his number and last name on their warmup shirts during the pregame warmups in honor of him.
Interim coach Jonas Hayes, previous assistant coach, took over as the head coach for the postseason after the loss of newly hired Miami coach Travis Steele, who was in the stands showing support to his old team.
“Every coach at Xavier has been ultra successful,” Williams said. “What has happened in their program the last two weeks is historical, and any athletic director that has a job opening should hire the undefeated head coach at Xavier, coach Jonas Hayes.”

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