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Red-hot Texas A&M faces Washington State in NIT semifinals

Mar 12, 2022; Tampa, FL, USA; Texas A&M Aggies head coach Buzz Williams against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the first half at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M’s late-season run, one that nearly lifted the Aggies into the NCAA Tournament and now has it in the NIT semifinals against Washington State, has been defined by defense.

The Aggies’ latest challenge will come Tuesday night in New York City when they face the guy who kicked Klay Thompson out of the Cougars’ record book.

The winner will play either St. Bonaventure or Xavier on Thursday night in the NIT championship game.

Texas A&M will have to contain Cougars star Michael Flowers, whose 27 points in Wednesday night’s 77-58 win at BYU included the 3-pointer that wiped out Thompson’s single-season school record of 98.

Flowers’ record-setting 3-pointer actually became a four-point play that helped Washington State (22-14) pull away for its third double-figure win of the tourney. He comes into Madison Square Garden with 100 3-pointers for the season.

“We played probably our best game of the year in probably our biggest game of the year,” said Cougars coach Kyle Smith.

Washington State committed just six turnovers, one shy of its season low, and improved to 8-2 in games where it’s held the opponent under 60 points. Flowers leads the team in scoring at 14.4 ppg and assists with 3.4.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M (26-12) enters off a 67-52 drilling of Wake Forest on Wednesday night in College Station, Texas. The Aggies held the Demon Deacons to 15 first-half points while getting 12 points each from Wade Taylor IV and Quenton Jackson in a balanced attack.

Virginia Tech transfer Tyrece Radford added 10 points and eight rebounds for the Aggies, who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Seven of those wins have been double-digit victories.

Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams — who was so steamed at the NCAA selection committee that he issued a nine-page statement why his team should have made the four-letter field after a first-round NIT win over Alcorn State — credited his team’s defense.

“I thought the adjustments we made were spot-on,” Williams said. “I thought the execution by our players was important.”

This will be just the programs’ third meeting and their first since Nov. 20, 2012.

–Field Level Media