Texas A&M-Kingsville 104, A&M-Commerce 94 (3 OT)
Location: Hampton Inn Court * Kingsville, Texas
Records: A&M-Commerce (7-14, 2-11 LSC); A&M-Kingsville (9-13, 4-9 LSC)
Up Next: vs. Texas A&M-Kingsville * Monday, February 4 * 8 p.m. * The Field House
KINGSVILLE, Texas – When the dust settled after 40 minutes of play, nothing had been decided between A&M-Commerce and A&M-Kingsville at Hampton Inn Court. Neither had it after 45 minutes of play. Or 50 minutes of play. But the Lions, who had battled back a handful of times on the afternoon ran out of gas at the end, dropping a 104-94 triple overtime thriller to the Javelinas.
"My heart goes out to these players because they left everything they had on the floor this afternoon," said head coach Sam Walker. "We knew coming in it would be a battle, but never imagined it would be like this. We were playing short manned through the entire overtime marathon and our guys gave it everything they had. But now we need to turn around and get ready to do it again Monday night."
Six players scored in double figures on the afternoon for A&M-Commerce, including double-doubles from both Preston Whitley (16 pts., 11 reb.) and Andrew Davis (12 pts., 10 reb.). Brad Hambrick led the way with 21 points, including four three-pointers, with five rebounds and three assists while LaBree Sledge finished with 14 points, including a perfect 4-of-4 from three-point range, before leaving the game late in the second quarter after getting shaken up.
Esteban Arriola made the most of his South Texas return, recording 13 points and seven rebounds with four assists for A&M-Commerce. Desmond King also notched 11 points and four rebounds before fouling out of the game late in the second half.
Coming into the game, Walker mentioned how close he thought this game would be, and it played just as he envisioned as the Lions and Javelinas combined for 11 ties and 12 lead changes in the affair. Through the majority of the opening half, neither team was able to settle into a rhythym as the largest lead for either side was four points.
But with less than five minutes remaining in the opening half, A&M-Kingsville began to find its groove on its home court. The Javelinas reeled off nine-straight points to take the largest lead of the game at 34-25 with 2:22 left in the half. A&M-Kingsville maintained that advantage in the waning seconds before a big three from Sledge with three seconds left cut the deficit to six at 38-32 at the half.
The Lions continued to trim down the Javelina lead in the second half, outscoring A&M-Kingsville 13-4 to tie the game at 45-45. After trading baskets, A&M-Commerce found itself down 52-51 before reeling off nine unanswered to claim its largest lead of the game at 60-52 with 8:41 remaining. But that run was quickly matched by a 9-0 run by the Javelinas, reclaiming the lead at 61-60 with 5:59 to go.
A&M-Commerce responded by reclaiming a 65-61 lead off a three pointer by Sledge with 4:17. On the shot, Sledge landed hard into the Lion bench as he appeared to be fouled but none was called. He would not return to the game and neither would Whitley, who picked up his second technical foul while protesting the no-call. 15 seconds later, King picked up his fifth personal foul, leaving A&M-Commerce without three of its main players down the stretch.
Trailing by three with one minute remaining, A&M-Kingsville got a lay-up from Ryan Layssard, trimming the deficit to one at 67-66. The ensuing inbound attempt was stolen by the Javelinas' Ashton Brown, who hit a jumper from the top of the key to give A&M-Kingsville the 68-67 lead with 44 seconds remaining.
Brown, the nation's leader in free throw percentage at 97 percent, extended the Javelina lead to three at 70-67 off a pair of free throws with 21 seconds left. With time running down, the Lions were looking for the shot to send the game into overtime, and the ball ended up in the hands of Hambrick who drilled a three from the left wing with two seconds remaining, sending the game to overtime tied at 70-70.
A&M-Kingsville gained control early of the first overtime period, building as much as a six-point lead at 78-72 at the midway point before another key three from Hambrick trimmed the deficit to three at 78-75. After the Javelinas went back on top by five at 80-75, Devondrick Walker hit a clutch jumper with 1:11 to go, pulling to within three at 80-77. The Javelinas were unable to convert on their end of the court as the Lions found an unexpected long-range shooter in Davis, who nailed the huge three pointer with 24 seconds remaining, tying the game at 80-80. A&M-Kingsville was unable to make the game-winner fall, sending the game into a second overtime period.
Unlike the first overtime stanza, it was A&M-Commerce who gained control early in the second overtime as a pair of layups from Davis and another from Hambrick gave the Lions the comfortable 86-80 lead with just over two minutes remaining on the clock. After a Javelina three cut the deficit in half at 86-83, Arriola put the Lions up by two possessions with a jumper with 1:10 remaining, giving A&M-Commerce the 88-83 edge.
But a pair of big three pointers by A&M-Kingsville put the Javelinas on top 89-88 with 19 seconds remaining. Arriola had a chance to give the Lions the victory with a pair of free throws, but hit one of two and A&M-Kingsville missed its three point attempt, sending the game into a third overtime period.
But the effect of playing short handed seemed to finally catch up to A&M-Commerce in the third overtime, as after the Lions took a 92-91 lead, the Javelinas reeled off nine unanswered points to take control at 100-92. A&M-Kingsville then made sure it took care of business from the free throw line, pulling away to hand the Lions the 104-94 loss.
For the game, A&M-Commerce shot 40 percent from the floor (32-of-80), compared to 43.5 percent for A&M-Kingsville (37-85). The Lions held the advantage in three points shooting hitting 50 percent from beyond the arc (13-of-26) compared to 30.8 percent for the Javelinas (12-of-39), but A&M-Kingsville's efficiency from the free throw line proved to be the difference. The Javelinas hit 18-of-21 free throws on the afternoon (85.7 percent), including 17-of-18 in the second half and three overtime periods, compared to just 17-of-28 (60.7 percent) for the Lions. A&M-Commerce also committed 24 turnovers compared to just 14 for A&M-Kingsville.
Ashton Brown led the Javelinas with 29 points on the night with nine assists and six rebounds while Reid Wallace finished with 22 points and six rebounds. Ryan Layssard recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists while Raymond Robinson and Marshall Bonds each had 10 points for the Javelinas.
The triple overtime game was only the second in A&M-Commerce basketball history and the first since falling at Tarleton State 91-85 in 1990. The defeat also proved to be a big setback in the Lone Star Conference standings for A&M-Commerce as the Lions remain in 10 th place and now trail the seventh-place Javelinas by two games as the Lions continue to fight to qualify for the conference tournament in Allen at the end of this month.
Neither team will have much time to recover as the two will resume their rivalry on Monday evening, playing the second part of a home-and-home series at the Field House. The game tips at approximately 8 p.m. immediately following the conclusion of the women's game, and will be streamed live nationally on FoxSportsSouthwest.com. Monday's game against A&M-Kingsville will also be a Gold Out game as all A&M-Commerce fans are encouraged to wear gold to the game and help cheer on their Lions.