As Texas A&M freshman guard Wade Taylor IV forced one of Notre Dame’s 12 second-half turnovers midway through the final frame, ESPN’s cameras caught head coach Buzz William’s flexing and screaming in the officials ear on his way to the Aggie bench.
The series of events, and the energy they created, was a stark contrast from a sleepy first half in the Maui Invitational, played well after bedtime back in College Station.
After trailing by as many as 14 early in the second half, Texas A&M completed the comeback in a 73-67 win over the Irish Wednesday to claim fifth place in the early-season tournament, held in Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay resort this season.
Boasting a deep bench, Williams fired in a rotation of 12 players to keep an uptempo, full-court defense fresh through the entirety of the second half. Notre Dame, who played only eight players through the game slowed under the pressure, fumbling 18 total turnovers to the Aggies in the game. A&M turned the gifts into 16 points off turnovers.
Indicative of the strategy, all three of A&M’s double-digit scorers came off the Aggie bench, led by super-senior guard Quenton Jackson with 18 points and four rebounds. Sophomore Hassan Diarra connected on 2 of 4 from behind the arc in route to 17 points, followed by freshman Wade Taylor’s 5 for 8 performance of the field for 14 points.
After the Aggies fell behind 14, A&M mounted a 30-13 run through the middle of the second half to take a 3-point 57-54 lead. Taylor picked up 10 of his 14 through the stretch, while Jackson scored 11 in the run.
Notre Dame failed to hit a field goal for more than eight minutes as the game wound to a close, ending the skid with four seconds left in the game. Through the stretch, the Irish made 11 points on free throws.
Unlike the first two games of the tournament, the Aggies began the game slowly. A&M finished the first half shooting 9 for 28 from the field and 3 for 9 from 3-point range. Notre Dame closed out the first half on a 13-5 run to take a 10-point lead into the half. Irish guard Dane Goodwin needed seven of his team-high 18 points in the stretch.
The Aggies managed to claim the win despite shooting 14 of 29 from the free throw line. The 48% clip from the charity stripe was the lowest for the Aggies since their loss to Texas Southern in December of 2018, when A&M hit just 33% of its free throws. A&M closed out the game hitting five of its last eight.
A&M returns to College Station with the only loss of the tournament coming against the eventual champion Wisconsin on Monday. The Badgers beat Saint Mary’s 61-55 in the tournament final to claim the crown.