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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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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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June 16, 2024

Aggies upset North Carolina to punch ticket to Sweet 16

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Sophomore forward Robert Williams grabbed 13 rebounds and tallied three blocks in Texas A&M’s victory over UNC.

In a game where everything needed to go right for the Aggies to upset the defending national champions and go to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the fifth time in program history, everything went right. The seven-seed A&M men’s basketball team (22-12) defeated two-seed North Carolina 86-65 on Sunday night.
The Aggies started the game with a nearly flawless first half. Freshman guard T.J. Starks got the Aggies on the board first with a three-point shot. The Tarheels soon responded with an 11-4 run and held an 11-7 lead at the first media timeout. Sophomore forward Robert Williams said the Aggies took the game chunk by chunk and didn’t get too concerned with the game as a whole.
“We all told each other every media timeout ‘let’s win this media timeout, let’s win this half’ and that’s what happens,” Williams said in a video on the team’s official Twitter account.
The Aggies struggled to get into an offensive rhythm and trailed 20-13. The maroon and white began to gel starting at 11:37 mark when the Aggies went on a 15-0 run. Junior center Tyler Davis led Aggies in scoring during that run, netting nine points and giving the Aggies a 28-20 with just over six minutes remaining in the half.
“We know we have the advantage on the inside against most teams so we just do what we do everyday just go to wore on the inside and eat glass,” Davis said.
Junior forward D.J. Hogg caught fire near the end of the half, netting seven points in the last six minutes.
Usually very strong from behind the arc, North Carolina struggled in the first half, making just eight percent of their three-point shots (1-of-13) in the first half. Led by Starks’ two made three-point shots, the first and last shots of the half, the Aggies sunk 46 percent (5-of-11) of their shots from deep.
UNC missed their last six shots of the half and the Aggies held a 42-28 lead at the half. The 42 points the Aggies scored tied the school record for most points scored in the first half of an NCAA Tournament game.
The Aggies opened the second half by netting three three-point shots before the first media timeout. North Carolina, however, showed some signs of life and was able to break the A&M defense down and score a couple of easy baskets in the low post.
North Carolina point guard Joel Berry II was dominant down the stretch and dished it to his teammates who had some open looks. However, the Aggies were quick in getting a hand in the face of the Tar Heels and forcing them to take contested shots.
“Our goal was to defend the free throw line and make them take tough twos,” A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said. “When you block eight shots, that means they were shooting a lot of tough twos.”
The Tar Heels showed signs of life, initiating a full court press which lured the Aggies into making some turnovers. The Aggies coughed up the ball four times in a span of a little over three minutes starting at the 7:01 mark.
The Tar Heels were unable to convert the turnovers into points and the Aggies still held onto a commanding 71-51 lead with just under six minutes remaining. Williams squandered any chance of a Tar Heel comeback with a windmill dunk, similar to the one he slammed in A&M’s first round matchup against Providence.
The Aggies held an 85-63 lead with 1:28 remaining. Kennedy subbed his starters out and used his bench players to ice the game. North Carolina hit a late dunk, and the Aggies held on to clinch the 86-65 win. The win gives the Aggies their fifth Sweet 16 trip in program history and their first since 2016, when Davis was a junior.
“We’re back,” Davis said. “I’ve been here before, so I’m not way in over my head right now, but I’m extremely happy for everyone. It was an excellent team win and we had to pull it together and we did.”
Aside from shooting, the biggest difference in the game was rebounding. The Aggies outrebounded the Tar Heels 50 to 36, with and Williams grabbing 13 of those rebounds. Starks led the Aggies in scoring, netting 21 points, tied for a game-high. Davis was a bestial presence throughout the game and finished with 18 points and nine rebounds.
The Aggies will now advance to play Michigan in the Sweet 16. The game will be played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday. Tipoff is slated for 6:37 p.m. and will be televised on TBS.
“It shows the kind of team we are and what we’re capable of,” Davis said. “We’re an extremely confident team. We know what we have in this locker room, and we ran with it all year. We’re just going to keep our jobs, study up on Michigan and get better.”

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