With just under two seconds remaining, sophomore guard Andre Gordon made a contested layup to notch a 68-66 victory over Auburn for Texas A&M.
In the game’s opening minutes, points were a luxury for both squads. The Aggies held a 19-18 lead with four minutes remaining in the first half. Three-point jumpers from guards Quenton Jackson and Jaxson Robinson helped A&M extend the gap, and the Aggies took a 33-22 lead into the half.
A&M’s defense was the highlight of the opening period, holding the Tigers to 1-of-13 from beyond the arch in the first half and 7-of-26 overall.
In the first five minutes of the second half, both teams began to knock down shots. Despite Auburn’s increase in scoring, a pair of layups from forward Emanuel Miller and a three-pointer from Andre Gordon helped the Aggies take a 45-31 lead.
In the next 10 minutes, the Tigers chipped away at their deficit. Auburn guard Jamal Johnson scored eight points and the team’s early woes from the three point line became a distant memory. A dunk from forward JT Thor brought the Tigers within three, trailing 62-59 with four minutes left in the second half.
In the game’s final minutes, the momentum swung back and forth. The Aggies held a 66-64 lead with 24 seconds left, and Auburn was forced to foul. Without a foul left to give, Auburn forward Jaylin Williams forced a steal, leading to a Thor dunk to tie the game. The play was controversial, as the officials missed Williams’ foot stepping out of bounds in transition. The Aggies then had the ball with 14 seconds remaining.
In the game’s closing seconds, Gordon drove to the left side of the rim and knocked down a layup over Auburn guard Allen Flanigan. The Tigers heaved up an ill-fated shot from half court at the buzzer, and the Aggies held on for the victory.
After the game, A&M coach Buzz Williams expressed gratitude for his team’s performance.
“I’m incredibly thankful for the win,” Williams said. “This is the first time we've been in a game that we weren't expected to win that we turned into a game. I think [the win] will give us traction. We had never been in a position to win this sort of game.”
Williams said the team’s new five-man substitutions were beneficial to the game plan. The shift in the team’s style of preparation helped them better compete.
“Part of our lack of competitive spirit was my fault. We spent so much time focusing on the opponent. Now, we’re focussing on ourselves,” Williams said.
Gordon finished with 10 points, including the game-winning layup.
“I didn’t know if I was going to have the ball in my hand. Everyone on our team is capable of making those shots. I was just lucky to have the ball and help us win,” Gordon said.
The victory moves the Aggies to 1-1 in conference play and 6-2 overall. Auburn falls to 0-2 in conference play and 6-4 overall.
The Aggies will head to Columbia to take on South Carolina in their next game on Jan. 6.