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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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Second-half comeback wraps up Maui Jim Maui Invitational

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Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Sophomore guard Hassan Diarra scored 17 points to boost A&M to another victory in the Maui Jim Maui invitational.

On a late Wednesday night, Texas A&M men’s basketball learned the game was not over until the clock hit 00:00.

The Aggies battled Notre Dame in the final game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational on Nov. 24. After being down 14 points in the second half, defensive efforts and bench talent secured the 73-67 win over Notre Dame, giving the maroon and white a fifth place finish in the tournament. This is the greatest comeback recorded under head coach Buzz Williams. 

Williams said unselfish play was the key to the team’s win. 

“We had 11 guys play double-digit minutes. I thought the response of everybody that played in the second half was incredible,” Williams said. “I don’t think it was one person. I think it was Texas A&M. I think it was Texas A&M that led to where we were at in the first half at halftime, and I think it was their response collectively that allowed the game to change.”

The Aggies improved their record to 6-1 in the win over Notre Dame. It was the first time the Aggies and the Fighting Irish had met, resulting in a thrilling late-night comeback for the Aggies. 

The game began with a back-and-forth rhythm between the two opponents. Sophomore guard Hassan Diarra knocked down two consecutive 3-pointers, knotting the score at 11-all. However, the Fighting Irish refused to let up as they scored eight unanswered points and drove a wedge between the score in the first half, 32-22.

“Whatever the team needs at the time, that’s what I bring to the game,” Diarra said. “So whatever I can do, whether it’s 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, it doesn’t matter. I just want to win games, and bringing that energy off the bench is no problem for me.”

With the second half underway, Notre Dame came out strong with a 9-4 run, upping the score to 41-29, but the Aggies did not count themselves out quite yet. A&M responded, making four of its last shots from the field and implementing an aggressive full-court press to create turnovers. 

The Aggies gained momentum with their 12-3 run. Graduate guard Quenton Jackson stole the ball away from a Notre Dame defender and slammed it down, electrifying the sidelines and creating a 1-point game with 9:15 left on the clock. Jackson finished the night as A&M’s leading scorer with 18 points, adding to his tournament total of 48. 

“[Freshman guard Wade Taylor IV] was the head coach at halftime. He started the conversation. Our guys received what he had to say,” Williams said. “What he said was the truth, and they responded. All I did was echo what [Taylor] was saying. I didn’t scream. I didn’t yell. I think our chance is to play incredibly hard. Our chance is to try to play off of two feet, get teams in rotation. We do need to play with some pace.”

A&M gained its first lead of the second half and continued to halt Notre Dame’s ability to score. The Aggies’ pressuring defense caused a shot clock violation which flustered Notre Dame and steered the direction of the game A&M’s way. 

The A&M defense greatly contributed to the comeback, recording 13 steals and 16 points off turnovers. 

With 2 1/2 minutes left to play, a steal and alley-oop by junior guard Aaron Cash sent the score to 66-61. Cash contributed to the 60 points scored by the bench on Wednesday night. Players like Diara, who scored 17 points, and Taylor, with 14 points, heavily advance the depth of A&M’s talent.

“We played 11 [players] every game into tonight and I think that we don’t need to play uncharacteristically fast and not take quality shots, but we need to have really good movement off dribble penetration,” Williams said. “We did that in the second half. There’s a distinct difference in what we were doing defensively relative to the pressure that we applied and not getting into rotation.”

In the second half, the maroon and white shot 66.7% from the field, documenting their highest field goal percentage in a half during the Williams coaching era. They also held Notre Dame to 23.1% at the 3-point line, contributing to their No. 3 rank in the Southeastern Conference of defending 3-point shooting.

The Aggies finished with a 2-1 record at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. Their only loss of the tournament and season came at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers, who outscored the Aggies 69-58 and went on to win the tournament.

A&M will return to action in College Station on Tuesday, Nov. 30 to take on New Orleans at 6 p.m.

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