Five free throws in the final 35 seconds of the game lifted Texas A&M men’s basketball to a 63-60 win over A&M-Corpus Christi, helping the Aggies overcome an 11-point deficit and break a four-game losing streak.
Freshman forward Emanuel Miller led the Aggies with 20 points, including 14 in the second half.
In the first half, Miller and senior forward Josh Nebo combined for half of A&M’s 24 points, adding six apiece. Nebo finished the game behind Miller with 13 points.
A&M coach Buzz Williams said the duo’s performance is something he needs to see from the team as a whole.
“In the last two weeks, and in the last two games, [Miller] and Nebo have established a distinct role,” Williams said. “It’s a role that we're dependent on. I’m encouraged for sure about both of those guys. We need to somehow figure out how we can keep those guys trending in that direction, and then find some other guys to establish those types of roles relative to their responsibilities.”
Though A&M took an early 9-3 lead, the Islanders came back to keep the game close, thanks to a 25-point performance by Corpus Christi freshman guard Jordan Hairston.
At halftime, Hairston had 18 points on six three-pointers, with 15 of those points coming on a 15-4 run by Corpus Christi.
In the four games he has played in this season, Hairston’s previous season-high was eight points. Corpus Christi coach Willis Wilson said Hairston had battled an illness at the beginning of the season that kept him out of the Islanders’ first four games.
“He’s had some health issues and he’s not where he was,” Wilson said. “When you look at how slight he is, he had an illness right at the start of the season, missed the first several games of the year, lost 13 pounds. When you look at his stature, you take 13 pounds off a guy that size, it’s significant. He’s not quite back where we need him to be.”
Hairston contributed 15 points in Corpus Christi’s 18-8 scoring run that ended the first half, giving the Islanders a 31-24 lead into halftime.
However, after Hairston’s explosive first half, the Aggies held him to only seven points in the second half, allowing A&M to overcome an 11-point deficit.
Free throws were also a key part of A&M’s win, with 14 points coming from free throws in the second half, including six that gave the Aggies the lead over Corpus Christi in the final two minutes of the game.
“We do an above average job of getting fouled,” Williams said. “We're probably top 35 in the country in getting fouled, and top 35 in not fouling.”
Miller said the Aggies took advantage of the opportunity the free throws provided.
“I believe collectively as a group going down the stretch, you want to hit shots to extend the lead,” Miller said. “I believe each single person on this team, collectively thought to just extend at the end of the game, especially down the stretch. That was to hit free throws, and I think we did a good job of that.”
The Aggies will next host Oregon State at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 21.