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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

One point ends A&M’s season

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Texas A&M head coach Buzz Williams holds the game ball while a referee explains a penalty call in Madison Square Garden on Thursday, March 31, 2022.

NEW YORK, NY — Team bus one drove away.
In November, this bus was filled with a group of transfers, veterans and freshmen each with their own stories, personalities and goals.
In March, they were brothers.
Every one of their 39 games knotted the group. It didn’t matter how they got to Texas A&M. The adversity they faced throughout the 2021-22 season interlocked their relationships. The team’s connection mimicked one of a family.
Coach Buzz Williams had two families at Madison Square Garden that night. His wife Corey Williams mirrored his every move. His youngest daughter, Addyson, clasped her hands in a prayerful way. His sons, Mason and Calvin, sat on the edge of their seats. His oldest daughter, Zera, crossed her arms, proudly watching her dad.
Both families saw Buzz during the emotionally draining moments and the exciting thrills. Both families were there for each other, no matter what.
Madison Square Garden has seen millions of balls shot, but for Texas A&M, one final shot was the most important of the season.
A&M’s entire season led up to this moment. Sophomore guard Hassan Diarra took a deep breath and inbounded the ball. Junior guard Tyrece “Boots” Radford grasped it, knowing that the championship was on the line.
With 0.3 seconds left, Radford released the ball.
The buzzer rang.
In, out.
Hearts shattered. The score read 73-72 Xavier, and a single point ended A&M’s season.
On Thursday, March 31 under the lights of Madison Square Garden, A&M fell in a heartbreaker to Xavier in the championship game of the National Invitational Tournament.
The championship started as a back-and-forth affair, but Xavier’s aggressive offense gained momentum early on. Both teams wanted it and were willing to fight until the buzzer.
The Musketeers jumped out to a 12-6 lead at the first media timeout. Senior forward Ethan Henderson accumulated three fouls in the first five minutes of the game, so A&M’s guards got physical to make up for a lack of size on the floor.
Bucket by bucket, the Aggies shook off the nerves and fought their way back into the game. Graduate guard Quenton Jackson stepped up, finding his way into the paint and Diarra drained a 3-pointer, gaining the lead and igniting a good-sized A&M crowd to rise to their feet at Madison Square Garden. A&M’s chemistry was starting to show.
On Xavier’s end, it was a three-man show. All of the Musketeers’ points in the first 15 minutes came from junior forward Jack Nunge, sophomore guard Colby Jones and sophomore guard Dwon Odom.
Jackson finished his final first half as an Aggie with a 3-pointer, followed by two free throws, and ended the half with 12 points. He entered the locker room knowing he only had 20 more minutes of A&M basketball left to play, and his all would be left right there on the floor of the world’s most famous arena.
Williams and Jackson took a second before heading to the locker room to have a quick discussion with the referees, whose whistles were blown quite a bit in the first half.
When the Aggies returned to the floor, a look of seriousness overwhelmed them. They didn’t care that they were leading. They were locked in, because the job was not done.
In the second, Xavier hung on. The championship teams traded buckets, and the Musketeers were not going to let off the gas. After his fourth foul, Xavier’s senior guard Adam Kunkel furiously walked over to the bench, not even caring to slap his teammates’ hands. On the other side of the court, A&M huddled, arm in arm, and embraced each other like relatives. The energy of these two teams was different.
The whistle did not stop blowing. Xavier was placed in the bonus due to seven A&M fouls in seven minutes. Radford sank a 3-pointer to advance A&M’s lead to seven, but the Musketeers responded with back-to-back 3-pointers of their own. The Xavier bench roared. They were right back in the game.
Kunkel’s fourth foul was later announced as the wrong call, and was given to his teammate. He returned to the game, sinking a crucial 3-pointer for Xavier. The next seven minutes was filled with eight lead changes and three ties.
It was down to the wire.
“There’s a thin line between winning and losing,” Buzz said. “It’s invisible. You can look at any game throughout our season and see how many one and two possession games we played and how thin that line is.”
With 39 seconds left to go, the score read 71-70. With possession of the ball, Williams called a timeout. Just like a scene out of a movie, with the championship title on the line, Jackson knocked down his final free throws in an A&M jersey.
With 5.9 seconds left, on an in-bounds play, Nunge banked a shot off the glass, claiming the lead, 73-72.
“Credit to him,” sophomore forward Henry Coleman III said. “He has an unbelievable story, and he’s an unbelievable person. It was an unbelievable play.”
A&M got the ball back with 3.1 seconds. Radford’s jumper floated in and out of the rim, but did not fall, ending the Aggies’ season amidst the presence of MSG. As Xavier cheered, the Aggies quietly stepped off the court, reminiscing on all they had accomplished this season.
Players hugged coaches. Coaches hugged players. In a moment of sadness, they were immediately comforted by their family.
“This is my 28th year of college coaching, and I have never experienced anything like what has transpired with our team over the last six weeks,” Buzz said. “The belief, the work, the trust, the love, player to player, coach to coach, player to coach, coach to player, has scarred my heart in a way that I will never, ever forget. [It has] changed our program forever.”
Texas A&M’s 27 wins record as the second most wins in a single season in program history.
In Jackson’s final press conference as an Aggie, he said this season will be engraved in his mind forever.
“Epic. Historical. It’s something I will remember until I pass away.”

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