• Benjamin Gerstel

The Aggies end Washington State's NIT run and have secured a spot in the NIT Finals

After coming off of two whopping victories in a row, averaging 14-point victories in their last three games, the red-hot Aggies found themselves playing Washington State in the second game of the night at MSG. Washington State has been taking care of business against their opponents, defeating Yale by a whopping 19-point margin. Both teams are looking to secure an opportunity to call themselves champions of the NIT, for the first time in program history.

In the first half, both teams went back and forth. Washington State’s T.J. Bamba, was the first player to get fans out of their seats in this game, as he steamrolled his way to a robust, rim-rocking finish with 10:37 in the game. However, very few other plays matched that intensity or precision early on. Through the first 13 minutes of the game, loose balls were flying everywhere, and both teams made a single three pointer each, out of a combined 12 shots. Eventually, both teams were able to find their rhythm, after an ugly start to the game. Washington State began to shoot exceptionally from behind the arc, hitting 4-9 compared to A&M’s 1-8. Tyrell Roberts alone, hit two threes himself within a span of a minute. On the other hand, while Washington State utilized their three-point shooting and turnovers, Texas A&M played more efficiently in the first half. They were more consistent from the field (getting to the paint much more frequently), and were actually playing better interior defense, as seen by Quenton Jackson’s monster block. Jackson’s block gave A&M the momentum heading into the half, and they headed into the locker room up 32-26. Considering they shot 1-9 from three in the first half, a 6 point lead just shows how much better they really were than Washington State in the first half. Texas A&M continued to get their way against Washington State, and opened up the half with a 19 point lead. A&M’s defense in the paint continued to swallow Washington State, and refused to allow them to create any space. Washington State struggled offensively throughout the second half, and only had 13 points in 10 minutes of gametime. In that span, Texas A&M’s lead grew from 6, to 25, thanks to their athleticism and ability to bring the ball out in transition. Henry Coleman responded to T.J. Bamba’s early jam with a nasty one-handed dunk in transition, for one of the most jaw-dropping highlights of the night. In the second half, Buzz Williams’s crew simply ran Washington State out of the gym. They got out in transition, were able to attack the rim with much more success, and they dominated in the paint. With five minutes left in the game the Aggies continued to capitalize off of second chance points, with a tip in that made it a 20 point game. Coleman’s 16-point performance was the second best offensively for the Aggies, behind Quenton Jackson’s 18-5-5. Texas A&M will now move on to face Xavier in the NIT championship on Thursday, after ending Washington State’s season in demolishing fashion, 72-56.

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