COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP)—Terrell Everett saved No. 22 Oklahoma from another narrow Big 12 loss.
Everett hit a 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds left Saturday to help the Sooners avoid an 0-3 start in the league with a 45-44 victory over Texas A&M.
The Sooners (10-4, 1-2) had lost their first two conference games by a total of three points, with both decided in the closing seconds.
“I know I can say it feels better,” said Everett, who scored 15 points. “We were just trying to play smarter. We just tried to tough it out.”
Taj Gray added 13 points for the Sooners, who beat A&M for the 13th straight time and 24th in 25 meetings.
They shot only 41 percent (16-of-39) and were outrebounded 31-29—just the second time this season Oklahoma has been beaten on the boards—but still stole a critical victory leading into a seven-day break before their next game.
“This was really important,” Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson said. “We could be 0-3, if Terrell doesn’t hit that shot. But we could easily be 3-0, too. It was good to win this game and have a week off.”
Acie Law scored 14 points for the Aggies (11-3, 1-2), who lost for the first time in 12 home games this season.
The Aggies went 5 minutes without a field goal in the second half, but consecutive 3-pointers by Chris Walker gave them a 42-40 lead heading into the last 3 minutes.
Gray was called for an offensive foul near the 1-minute mark and Law dribbled patiently as the shot clock wound down on A&M’s ensuing possession. Walker got the ball near the top of the key and found Marlon Pompey for a fadeaway jumper just before the shot clock expired.
Everett scored on a pull-up jumper with 25 seconds left to quickly quiet the rowdy crowd at Reed Arena.
“It just felt good shooting the ball,” Everett said.
Pompey missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 17 seconds to go and Everett coolly swished the go-ahead 3 from the wing. Sampson was glad Everett took the shot, even though he’s Oklahoma’s fourth-leading scorer and came into the game shooting only 25 percent from 3-point range.
“Sometimes, you have to know when a guy is feeling it,” Sampson said. “You could just tell—for some reason, he got his hop back.”
Joseph Jones drove the length of the floor at the end, but slipped in the lane as he attempted a layup at the buzzer. The play was designed to go to Law.
“They did a good job of denying me the ball,” Law said. “He (Jones) just didn’t make the play.”
The Aggies finished 17-of-46 from the field (37 percent), including 6-of-19 from 3-point range.
A&M plays its next two games on the road before hosting Kansas on Jan. 25, leaving little time to dwell on Saturday’s bitter loss.
“We have a lot of character on our team,” Walker said. “What we pride ourselves on is being tough. I’m not worried about us bouncing back. We’ll get this out of our system tonight.”
Oklahoma went 12 minutes without a field goal in the first half and was lucky to trail only 22-17 at the break.
The Sooners committed 13 turnovers in the opening half and shot almost as poorly from the field (5-of-15) as they did from the free throw line (6-of-15).
The Aggies, meanwhile, played most of the first half without Jones, their leading scorer, who picked up two early fouls and didn’t play again until the second half.
“Our bread and butter is getting the ball to Joe,” Walker said. “We had to make some adjustments.”
Oklahoma’s offense finally started to look better 5 minutes into the second half.
Kevin Bookout scored inside to start a 13-3 burst and Everett’s fadeaway with 8:04 left gave Oklahoma a 37-34 lead.
“The second half, we did a great job of running our stuff,” Sampson said. “We had great movement, we set great screens.”
Jones had a putback and a free throw during the spurt, but the rest of the Aggies missed eight straight shots.
The Sooners led 40-36 when Walker swished a 3-pointer from the corner with 4:38 left, the Aggies’ first 3-pointer in 12 minutes. Walker sneaked to an opening on the wing a minute later and hit another 3-pointer to put the Aggies up by two.
They couldn’t hold the lead, though, losing for only the fourth time in 32 home games under second-year coach Billy Gillispie.
“We’re in the Big 12 and this is just the way games are,” Gillispie said. “Preparation is easy, but converting is hard. We were right there. We just have to convert.”