Texas A&M’s second try at the Maui Invitational — played this year in Las Vegas — resembled so many aspects of its first. The time, the Aggie men’s basketball team closed out down the stretch.
A&M made 5 of 8 free throws and used solid defensive rebounding during the final three minutes of the second half to put away Butler 57-50 in consolation bracket play Tuesday at the Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay.
A&M couldn’t finish off Wisconsin on Monday to open tournament play, falling 69-58. Against Butler, however, the Aggies (5-1) pulled down six defensive rebounds in the final three minutes that helped hold off the Bulldogs. During that stretch, A&M forward Henry Coleman III had four of the six boards.
A&M guard Quenton Jackson said rebounding was the key difference between the Aggies’ two Maui Invitational games.
“We did a terrible job rebounding in the first game, so that was a big emphasis coming into this next game,” Jackson said.
The super senior guard led all scorers with 15 points, hitting 3 of 3 shots from 3-point range. Jackson’s buzzer-beating trey gave the Aggies a 33-21 halftime lead.
The Aggies also forced 19 turnovers and turned them into 21 points — mostly in the first half. By comparison, the Bulldogs scored just seven points on 12 Aggie turnovers.
But much like in Monday’s tournament opener against Wisconsin, A&M had to fight back an opponent trying to creep back into the game in the second half. Butler (3-3) used an 11-3 run to get within three as the game wound to a close. Chuck Harris finished the run with a layup to cut A&M’s lead to 53-50 with 27 seconds left.
A&M’s Marcus Williams hit two free throws with 24 seconds left to push A&M’s lead back to five points, and Jackson later hit 2 of 2 free throws with three seconds left to close out the scoring.
“I thought today there were a lot of the same tests that we had to learn from yesterday,” A&M head coach Buzz Williams said. “I thought we were distinctly better in some of those lessons that we learned. Much better job on the glass. That gave us a chance.”
Coleman had eight points to go with his game-high 10 rebounds. Williams and Tyrece Radford also scored eight points each for the Aggies. Guard Jair Bolden paced the Bulldogs with 10 points.
A&M advances in the consolation bracket to play the winner of Notre Dame (2-1) and Chaminade (2-1) at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. The game will be televised by ESPN2 (Suddenlink Ch. 36).