In the final four seconds of the overtime the Aggies danced with the one that brought them.
Texas A&M had stayed in the game in the opening half with 15 offensive rebounds. The Aggies’ 20th offensive board won them the game, with Tyler Davis just beating the overtime buzzer with a tip-in to upend No.14 Kentucky 79-77.
“I kept my guy on my backside and once Danuel [House] put the shot up I just had the chance to grab it and put it back in,” Davis said. “I just tried to put it up as soon as possible, I had no idea how much time was on the clock.”
While nearly every one of the 12,029 fans in Reed Arena were celebrating the College GameDay victory, the officials went to the monitor to see if Davis had indeed beat the buzzer. When it was announced the basket was good, the celebrating picked up another notch.
The officials didn’t have an opportunity to look at the most controversial play of the overtime.
With Kentucky (20-7, 10-4) up 76-75, Jalen Jones rebounded a Jamal Murray miss to give the Aggies (20-7, 9-5) a second opportunity to take the lead in the final minute.
Isaac Humphries blocked Anthony Collins’ shot in the lane and the little-used 7-footer came down with his 12th rebound for Kentucky. He was immediately fouled by Tonny Trocha-Morelos and in his excitement with only 9.4 seconds remaining, Humphries spiked the ball and was called for a technical.
“He was celebrating; he was so happy. There was no disrespect to anybody so if that is what they choose they call then what are you going to do?” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “You can be mad or whatever but I’m not mad at that kid. Are you kidding me? He’s a great kid. It’s just the play at the very end there kind of sullied up the game. Heck of a basketball game, I just hated what decided the basketball game.”
Rather than Kentucky hoping to stretch its lead to three with two free throws, Danuel House, a 68-percent free-throw shooter, went to the line and made both technical free throws.
“I was leaning toward Anthony [Collins] because he’s our best free-throw shooter [87 percent] and House said ‘Coach, I got these,’” Kennedy said. “So when I saw that confidence and he shoots a bunch of them every day I said, ‘You got them then; go make them.’”
Humphries fouled out with the technical and Skal Labissiere, a 70-percent free-throw shooter, split a pair of foul shots in Humphries’ stead to tie the game at 77.
“I’ve never been in a situation where that has happened before and I’ve coached a lot of games,” Kennedy said. “My assistant coach who did the scout knew right away [who to choose]. He looked like he was going to make both off them. When he made the first one I said, ‘Dang, that’s why he was the No. 1 or 3 player in the country,’ because he can stroke it. He wasn’t scared, we just got a break because he went up there with confidence.”
The teams went to overtime after 24 lead changes and 11 ties in regulation. Marcus Lee’s dunk tied the game at 68 with 43 seconds left and he had an opportunity to put the Wildcats up with free throws at the 31-second mark. Lee missed the front end of a 1-and-1, giving A&M the last shot to win it in regulation. House got a look at the top of the key but was short with his shot, setting up the third overtime game between the two teams since A&M joined the SEC.
“It would have to be up there [in the most exciting games],” said Jalen Jones, who finished with a game-high 24 points after scoring A&M’s first nine points with three 3-pointers. “We’ve played a lot of tough competitive teams this year, especially at Reed, but this would have to be the top one with the game-winning tip and Reed going crazy like it did, it was a heck of an experience tonight.”
Jones had missed the two-overtime Aggie loss to Kentucky last season because of an injury. At that time, Calipari said the Wildcats, who did not lose a game until the NCAA semifinal, were lucky to have won considering the Aggies were missing their best player.
“It gave me extra motivation to go out there and win tonight,” Jones said. “It’s my first time playing Kentucky while playing in the SEC and I just wanted to give it my all and I felt that I did and it was a good feeling winning it as well. I had seen some of the media stuff he said about me last year and that gave me a little boost some extra motivation. Kentucky is tough.”
A&M shot 39 percent for the game compared to the Wildcats’ 50 percent, but the season-high 20 offensive rebounds led to 22 second-chance points. The Aggies also protected the ball well with only seven turnovers, none by Collins, who had eight assists.
Davis finished with 15 points and Alex Caruso and D.J. Hogg each had 10, with Hogg getting eight in the first half.
“I thought we won some intangibles with two less turnovers, 20 offensive rebounds and we made tough plays,” Kennedy said. “It took that to win because we didn’t make free throws [14 of 24].”
Freshman guard Jamal Murray had 21 points and Isiah Briscoe 11 for the Wildcats, who played without senior Alex Poythress, had starter Derek Willis go out early in the second half with an ankle injury and finished the game without Lee and Humphries, who fouled out.
NOTES — Kennedy picked up a technical in the first half, his first in five years as A&M’s coach. … A&M lost to Kentucky 70-64 in double overtime in 2015 and 72-68 in overtime in 2013. All three games games against Kentucky at Reed Arena since A&M joined the SEC have gone to overtime. … A&M reached the 20-win plateau for the ninth time in 20 years. … Jones scored at least 20 points for the 10th time. … A&M will conclude its three-game homestand at 6 p.m. Wednesday vs. Mississippi State.