It could be said that the Buzz William era at Texas A&M officially began Wednesday night in Auburn, Alabama.
The A&M men’s basketball team survived a grueling road game against the No. 17 Auburn Tigers to win 78-75 in what is the program’s biggest win since the hiring of head coach Buzz Williams. It came down to a missed game-tying three by Auburn’s Danjel Purifoy in the final seconds before the Aggies were able to exhale and celebrate the upset victory against one of the best teams in the country that just last year played in the Final Four.
The Aggies (15-14) were 12.5 point underdogs going into their contest against the Tigers (24-6) as few expected A&M to spoil Auburn’s senior night. Auburn had also not lost at home all season as they had won their last 19 games played at Auburn Arena in a win streak that dated back to last February.
It was a closely contested game all night that Auburn seemed to have under control until two technical fouls early in the second half swung the game A&M’s way. With 15:46 left in the game and Auburn leading 38-37, an assistant coach for Auburn, Steve Pearl, was called for a technical foul on the Auburn bench, which awarded A&M two free throws. In argument of that call, Auburn’s head coach, Bruce Pearl, was also given a technical foul, which gave A&M two more free throws. Texas A&M’s senior guard Wendell Mitchell sank all four free throws to put A&M up 41-38 in a lead that they would hold for the rest of the night.
Those free throws weren't the biggest moment that Mitchell had in the game as late Auburn resurgence was put to bed by a Mitchell three-pointer that gave the Aggies an eight-point lead with 1:14 left in the game. Mitchell ended the game with 14 points in a huge night where he was able to nab a season-high 7 rebounds.
A large part of A&M finding success on offense in the second half can be attributed to an explosive performance by senior forward Josh Nebo. Nebo played his best half of the season when the Aggies most needed it, as 17 of his 19 points were scored in the second half. Though he fouled out late in the game, Nebo was unstoppable in the second half as the usually stout Auburn frontcourt had no answer for him.
“[Auburn] was a good team,” Nebo said postgame. “The guys fought hard. We just kept believing in each other….we played together. Nobody played selfishly…. we all played as one unit.”
Another season-best performance was had by junior guard Jay Jay Chandler, who poured in 14 points in 28 minutes off the bench. Junior Savion Flagg also had 14 points, including a crucial free throw with seven seconds left in the game that put the Aggies up by three.
This was an enormous win for the A&M basketball team as it gives the Aggies some momentum heading into the SEC Tournament, but it's also the team’s first win over a ranked opponent since March 18, 2018, when they knocked off North Carolina to advance to that year’s Sweet 16.
This was an equally big for the Aggies head coach, Buzz Williams, who got his first signature win as head coach for the Aggies. Williams credited the team being used to a close score game in the final minutes as to how they were able to keep their calm and secure the win.
“Every game that it seems like we’ve won has been one or two possession games,” Williams said postgame. “I guess because we’ve had so many reps at that, there’s maybe a little bit more calmness than you’d think.”
The Aggies now head to their final regular season game as they host Arkansas at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday for senior day.