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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

A&M beats Butler with physical play on both ends

Fifth+year+guard+Quenton+Jackson+gets+his+elbows+out+while+trying+to+move+the+ball+toward+the+basket.
Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Fifth year guard Quenton Jackson gets his elbows out while trying to move the ball toward the basket.

Texas A&M found its first win at this year’s Maui Jim Maui Invitational over Butler in a tight contest.  

The Aggies rode a great first-half performance into the second, where they weathered a valiant comeback effort from the Bulldogs to win 57-50. It was the first time the schools had met, and A&M played intense defense on the perimeter, shot reasonably well from long-range and got big rebounds down the stretch of the second half.

A&M coach Buzz Williams said the team improved its defense from the loss to Wisconsin and he was happy to see improvement in such a fast turnaround from an upsetting loss. 

“I thought our defensive energy was significantly better,” Williams said. “I felt we were able to play consecutive possessions with great discipline on both ends way better than yesterday. So I think the response of our guys from the lessons from yesterday and a quick turnaround was much better.”

Junior guard Tyrece Radford and sophomore forward Henry Coleman III got A&M off to a quick start to grab a 13-7 lead. The defense was active as well, forcing three Butler turnovers and holding the Bulldogs to 30% from the field and 16% from 3-point range through the first few minutes.

Butler and its physical offense responded with a 9-2 run, though, to take its first lead of the day. The two teams went back-and-forth to make the score 19-18 in A&M’s favor with just under seven minutes left in the first half. 

The Aggies continued to be aggressive in the paint with a Coleman step-through that was followed by a 3-pointer from graduate guard Quenton Jackson on the next possession. A&M kept up the defensive prowess with a few more turnovers that led to dunks from Coleman and Jackson to go up 28-18. Butler committed 13 turnovers in the first half.

Williams said the reason A&M was able to get so many steals was because the players were defending screens from Butler above the 3-point line.

“I felt the reason that we had some success in the first half was our ball screen coverage was really, really good,” Williams said. “So it’s the two guys that are involved in the ball screen, but it’s the three guys behind the ball screen that are going to limit and/or contest the 3-point shot.”

Over the remaining three minutes to go, A&M got increasingly active on the defensive end, and 17 of the Aggies’ 33 first-half points came off turnovers. Jackson drilled a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to take a 12-point advantage into the locker room. Jackson, Radford and Coleman each had eight first-half points to pace A&M.

Coleman said the team feels like it is prepared for physical games like this one and that he was able to grab 10 rebounds because of how much the players practice getting into position for them. 

“It was a physical game, just like yesterday with Wisconsin, but it’s something we practice every day,” Coleman said. “We have to take up space, and I’ve always had a kind of nose for the ball.”

Butler and the Aggies traded buckets through the first several minutes coming out of halftime. The Bulldogs kept up with A&M and stayed within 10 points, but Jackson soon hit his third 3-pointer and followed it up with a steal-and-slam to reclaim a 12-point lead at 49-37. He was A&M’s leading scorer in the game with 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field and a perfect 3-for-3 from 3-point range.

Jackson said he felt like he stepped up for the team by scoring points, but also with little things. like communicating better and knowing what to do in different situations, to help those around him.

“I feel like I stepped up not only just in scoring,” Jackson said. “[Also] just being a leader in how I responded to things not necessarily going my way, figuring out ways — different ways — I can help my teammates.”

With about eight minutes left in the second half and the lead at 10 for the Aggies, Butler’s leading scorer, graduate guard Jair Bolden, hit a midrange jumper, and freshman guard Jayden Taylor hit three free throws shortly after to trim the A&M lead to just five points. The Bulldogs outscored the Aggies 24-17 through the first 14 minutes of play in the second half.

With 1:55 left and the score reading 52-46 in favor of A&M, Butler gained possession off a turnover and made a contested layup to cut the lead to four. The Aggies and Butler traded misses on the following two possessions as the Bulldogs began to foul with 39 seconds to go. Sophomore guard Marcus Williams got the lead back up to five before Butler responded with a layup.

Williams was fouled again off the inbound pass, then made both his free throws, and Butler couldn’t convert on its next possession. A&M salted the game away with a few more free throws to log a 57-50 win and move to 5-1 on the year.

The Aggies will do battle with the winner of Chaminade-Notre Dame in the third game of their trip to Las Vegas in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. The tournament finale will take place Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 9:30 p.m. CT. 

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