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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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One step away
June 8, 2024

Red-hot Caruso keys come-from-behind win

Junior guard Alex Caruso defends the top of the key during the A&M win Saturday.
Photo by Tanner Garza — The Battalion
Junior guard Alex Caruso defends the top of the key during the A&M win Saturday. Photo by Tanner Garza — The Battalion

In a wild finish and roaring double digit comeback by Texas A&M, junior guard Alex Caruso’s 23 points led his team to a 72-71 win over Arizona State Saturday afternoon in Reed Arena.
“This game reminds me a lot of the Missouri game last year for me,” Caruso said of the SEC tournament matchup in which he scored a career-high 28. “I was throwing myself around, doing whatever I had to do. This one is a little better, because we won. I think it was just a great effort by everybody just staying with it and I’m proud of my guys.”
Despite only playing 10 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, Alex was all over the stat sheet by the end of the day. He compiled six assists, six rebounds and six steals against the Sun Devils.
It was playing catch-up for the Aggies most of the way. They trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half after a 45-point first half offensive explosion gave the Sun Devils a comfortable cushion.
Senior forward Jonathan Gilling was the mastermind behind the Sun Devils hot outing, shooting 3-4 from beyond the arc. Two consecutive threes by Gilling brought Arizona State up 11 with 5:16 to go in the first half.
Shooting 64 percent in the opening 20 minutes helped Arizona State, as did it 7-13 shooting from three-point land. However, the team settled down in the second half, shooting 9-22.
While the other team was cooling down, Caruso helped establish momentum with a wild dunk that cut the deficit to 62-57 with 8:41 left.
A&M would finally take the lead after a 12-0 run at 6:04 when freshman guard Alex Robinson hit an open three on the right side. After exchanging a couple buckets, Caruso would have the crowd of 6,299 standing on their feet once more with a three that put them up 68-66.
“The crazy thing about it is this thing is not even near full,” Caruso said. “But it was loud, it was rocking and people were standing up and cheering. Aggieland didn’t forget how to act at basketball games, they just forgot where Reed Arena was. Once they realize the kind of guys and team that we have, there’s going to be more people that come.”
The hero for the Aggies had a costly blunder with under two minutes to go when he missed a dunk. However, Caruso stole the ball on the next possession and made a contested layup at the other end, putting A&M up 71-69 with 47 ticks until the end.
Just 13 seconds later, the Sun Devils Tra Holder tied the game at the penalty strike and drilled a pair of free throws. A&M would have the ball with a deadlock and an empty shot clock.
On their last possession, Caruso dished it to senior post Kourtney Roberson, who drew a foul following an unfavorable bounce on the rim. After almost air-balling his first attempt, he succeeded on his second.
“That’s Alex Caruso,” Aggie head coach Billy Kennedy said. “As he continues to learn the pace offensively, he has a chance to become a really special player. He has a lot of positives and negatives, those [Manu] Ginobili tendencies. He can make a great play, and then have the turnover he had in front of our bench. At the end, finding Kourtney was another really good play. He’s maturing and he doesn’t get rattled.”
Holder, who led the Sun Devils in scoring with 14, bobbled it and fired a shot outside the arc that would fail to reach the rim.
“[I’m] really proud of our team that fought back in the second half,” Kennedy said. “Arizona State is a great team that is well coached, and are very hard to guard. In the second half [Arizona State] going zone gave us some problems and slowed the game down. Kourtney came up big, and he’s been working on shooting free throws, and the work has paid off. Fortunately, he made a big one.”
For the season, A&M has finished three games decided by three points or fewer. The Aggies are 2-1 in those games. In this one, senior guard Jordan Green and junior forward Jalen Jones each posted 13 points.
The Aggies will face their old rival, Baylor, at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Waco.
“It means a lot to me, especially Kourtney and the guys that have been around the program for a long time,” Green said. “I said that when we were swaying with House that I’m done with this game, and I’m thinking about that school in green. It’s going to be a great game, and we’re going to have to realize how to beat their zone. It’s a good opportunity for our young guys too. It will be a high intensity game, and I think this is the greatest preparation with us fighting back because it gives us more confidence and toughness so I think we are ready to go.”

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