COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP)—Texas A&M prides itself on defense.
Saturday the 23rd-ranked Aggies showed just how far that defense could carry them, beating Oklahoma 60-52 despite shooting 35 percent and going scoreless for six minutes in the second half.
“It’s times like this we just feel like our defense has to carry us,” said the Aggies’ Joseph Jones. “Sometimes you’re not going to make shots. They’re not falling, but your defense has to step up and take control of the game for you.”
Jones led the team with 18 points, but was only 5-of-13 on field goals.
The Sooners shot 41 percent for the game, but didn’t make a basket in the last 3:23.
The Aggies (18-4, 4-3 Big 12) led by one when Donald Sloan got a steal and cut through the lane for a layup that made it 54-51 with just less than 2 minutes remaining. Two free throws by Sloan about a minute earlier had given the Aggies the lead.
It was the third straight win for Texas A&M and breaks a three game winning streak for Oklahoma (15-6, 3-3).
Longar Longar made the first of two free throws after Sloan’s layup to cut the lead to 54-52, but his second one fell short.
A scary moment came with less than a minute to go when Jones and Blake Griffin collided mid air trying to catch an inbound pass. Both crashed to the court, but got up quickly and appeared to be unhurt.
“It wasn’t nothing,” Jones said of the collision. “I used to get hit (like that) playing tight end in football. I just should have caught the ball.”
Jones made the first of his free throws from that foul to stretch A&M’s lead to 55-52 with 56 seconds left. He got the rebound on his missed shot and Bryan Davis finished with a 3-point play that brought the crowd to its feet and made it 58-52, putting the game out of reach.
Longar fouled out on the play.
Griffin said his team was foiled by not getting loose balls and offensive rebounds late in the game.
“Those possessions are just about wanting it more and down the stretch,” he said. “You could tell that they wanted it more and that’s why they kept getting second-chance points.”
Texas A&M didn’t make a basket for more than six minutes in the second half. Good free throw shooting and the fact that Oklahoma made just three shots during that span allowed the Aggies to keep it close. The scoring drought ended with a 3-pointer by Dominique Kirk that made it 50-49 with 3:36 left.
“Our identity is being a very good, tough, defensive-minded team,” said associate head coach Scott Spinelli, who spoke with the media because coach Mark Turgeon went home ill after the game. “After those first few games we were a little bit suspect with teams shooting a pretty high percentage. Our play today was indicative of our focus on the defensive end.”
David Godbold led the Sooners with a career-high 22 points, including six 3-pointers.
The Aggies led by four points before Godbold keyed a 9-2 run that put Oklahoma ahead 42-39 midway through the second half. Texas A&M quickly tied it back up with a layup by Josh Carter and a free throw by DeAndre Jordan.
The Sooners regained the lead in grand fashion when Griffin sailed through the lane and finished with the one-handed dunk that left the Aggies’ defense momentarily stunned and made it 44-42.
The Sooners were in foul trouble for most of this one with Longar getting his fourth early in the second half and Taylor Griffin fouling out with about 8 1/2 minutes left.
“We had chances, but we were in serious foul trouble,” Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. “I guess we have to do a better job of playing without fouling. “
The Aggies went on a 10-2 run, capped by a 3-point play by Davis, to overcome a six-point halftime deficit and take a 33-31 lead with about 16:30 left. Longar got his fourth foul on that play, sending the 6-foot-11 senior to the bench.
He wouldn’t return until the final three minutes.
The Sooners tied it before Texas A&M scored four quick points to take a 37-33 lead with about 15 minutes to play.
The Aggies scored the first four points of the game and led until a jump shot by Godbold made it 12-11 with about eight minutes left in the first half. A free throw by Kirk tied it at 17 about three minutes later, but Oklahoma outscored the Aggies 12-6 in the last five minutes of the half to take a 29-23 lead.
Davis finished with 13 points and eight rebounds and Sloan had 10 points.
Coaches and staff from both teams wore tennis shoes instead of dress shoes as a show of support for the fight against cancer as part of the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs. Cancer national awareness weekend.