KNOXVILLE (AP) — Antwan Space was only 2 of 16 from 3-point range for the season before Texas A&M’s game with Tennessee Saturday night.
But Space hit both of his 3-point attempts against the Vols, including the game-winner with 4.4 seconds left to lift Texas A&M to a 57-56 victory over Tennessee in Knoxville.
“I was really looking for Jamal (Jones) and couldn’t find him,” Space said. “So I just shot it up.”
The Aggies (11-4, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) trailed by as much as 14 points in the first half, and never led in the second half until the final basket.
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said the slow start was a combination of a young team and it being the Aggies’ first true road game of the season. Previously, Texas A&M had played on three neutral sites, in addition to its 11 home games.
“I just thought we missed some lay-ups and some easy shots in the first half that we felt we should’ve made,” Kennedy said.
Texas A&M didn’t make a field goal the last 9:34 of the first half and Tennessee led 32-18 at halftime.
“Our shot selection was much better in the second half,” Kennedy said. “We were able to run our offense. We did a good job of dictating the game on the offensive end, controlling the tempo.”
Jones led the Texas A&M rally, scoring 20 of his 23 points in the second half and finishing the game 5 of 10 from 3-point range.
“I just tried to be aggressive (in the second half) because (Tennessee) had a big man on me and he was a lot slower,” Jones said. “I was just trying to get to the rim and open things up for everyone else.”
Alex Caruso had 12 points for the Aggies. No other Texas A&M player scored more than six points.
With Texas A&M trailing 56-54 and only 17 seconds remaining, Caruso missed two free throws after being fouled by the Vols’ Antonio Barton. Tennessee’s Jeronne Maymon grabbed the rebound of the second missed free throw and was immediately fouled by Kourtney Roberson. Maymon then missed two free throws, giving the Aggies a final possession, setting up Space’s game-winner.
“We were blessed Antwan made a big shot,” Kennedy said. “We missed some free throws, they missed some free throws, but our guys just stuck together and kept believing and they didn’t quit.”
Barton led Tennessee (10-5, 1-1) with 12 points. Josh Richardson scored 11. Jordan McRae, the Southeastern Conference’s third-leading scorer entering the game, tied his season-low of nine points. Jarnell Stokes finished with just six points for Tennessee, all in the first half.
The loss ends a four-game winning streak for the Vols.
“I thought our guys competed,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Just didn’t do a good job in the second half on both ends of the floor. We got stagnant offensively and didn’t get the stops we needed defensively. We came up short.”
Tennessee built much of its first half lead with McRae and Stokes on the bench in foul trouble.
“Going from the first to the second half we were a little bit too happy,” Barton said. “We got settled and they took a shot and then they started making shots everywhere. We tried to fight at the end but it was too late.”
Last year’s meeting between the Vols and Aggies was just as thrilling, with Tennessee escaping College Station with a four-overtime 93-85 victory.
Both teams return to the court for mid-week home games on Jan. 15. The Aggies host South Carolina, while Auburn visits Tennessee.
TEXAS A&M 57, Tennessee 56
TEXAS A&M (11-4)
Roberson 2-4 2-2 6, Green 2-6 0-0 5, Harris 0-2 0-0 0, Caruso 4-10 4-8 12, Jones 8-19 2-4 23, Smith 0-2 0-2 0, Miller 1-2 1-2 3, Fitzgerald 1-3 0-0 2, Space 2-2 0-0 6. Totals 20-50 9-18 57.
Stokes 2-5 2-2 6, Maymon 3-8 3-7 9, Richardson 4-8 3-3 11, Barton 4-9 3-5 12, McRae 2-8 4-4 9, Moore 0-1 0-0 0, Thompson 0-1 0-0 0, Davis 1-1 0-0 3, Reese 1-1 0-0 3, Edwards 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 18-44 15-21 56.
Halftime-Tennessee 32-18. 3-Point Goals-Texas A&M 8-15 (Jones 5-10, Space 2-2, Green 1-3), Tennessee 5-17 (Edwards 1-1, Davis 1-1, Reese 1-1, McRae 1-6, Barton 1-6, Thompson 0-1, Richardson 0-1). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Texas A&M 27 (Roberson 6), Tennessee 36 (Maymon 15). Assists-Texas A&M 12 (Caruso 8), Tennessee 11 (McRae 4). Total Fouls-Texas A&M 19, Tennessee 21. A—18,079.