ANAHEIM One and done.
BYU's drought in the NCAA Tournament extended to 16 years after No. 9 seed Texas A&M cut off a second-half Cougar rally and held on for a 67-62 first-round win over eighth-seeded BYU in the Honda Center Thursday.
Josh Carter, who lit up the Cougars early, led the Aggies with 26 points and knocked down a huge pull-up jumper with 1:35 to play with his team hanging on to a 59-57 advantage. That play, plus big second shots with key Aggie rebounds, kept BYU's streak of heading home after one NCAA game intact.
The Cougars head home with a 27-8 record but, like a year ago, the season ends on a two-game postseason skid.
"I felt we competed really hard, but they made a few more plays than we did," said BYU coach Dave Rose, who told his players a lot of teams lose first-round games, but there aren't many who can hang banners in home arenas and say forever they won a league championship.
The Cougars had four players in double figures, led by Jonathan Tavernari's 15 points. Lee Cummard added 14 while Trent Plaisted had 13 and freshman Jimmer Fredette added 10.
The game started with BYU tripping into a hole right out of the chute. It was "ready, get set, go," and the Aggies ran and the Cougars stumbled.
The Cougars failed to score on their first nine possessions, going 0-for-8 to start the game and just 2-for-12 a few minutes later. That start enabled the Aggies to lead 11-0 on a pair of 3-pointers by Carter.
"Jitters from it being the beginning of the tournament and being on the big stage is the only thing I can think to explain it," said Cougar senior captain Sam Burgess.
"We didn't start the game with a lot of energy," said Cummard. "Playing flat and we were rushing shots and not taking shots that we normally take."
The Cougars raced back from down 11-zip to get back in the game behind just 13-8. They did it again after trailing 20-10 after Carter hit his fourth trey of the game. BYU's run came on 3-point baskets by Cummard, Tavernari and Fredette in the final three minutes of the first half to tie the game at 29 at intermission.
"We did some silly things and they came back like we knew they would," said Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon.
The Cougars and Aggies battled toe-to-toe for the next 10 minutes before BYU took a 45-43 lead on an inside bucket by Plaisted.
"I was a little worried at that point," said Turgeon.
But Carter tied the game after the Aggies missed a shot, got the rebound and got Carter the ball for a slam dunk to pull even.
Plaisted hit one from the line and then got a dunk of his own to put the Cougars up 48-47 with 8:10 to play, but the Aggies made a 5-2 run to lead 52-48 on a tip-in by Carter and three free throws by Joseph Jones, and that was the advantage needed to hold off the Cougars.
BYU's staff inserted Fredette the freshman early in the first half, and his playmaking ability jumpstarted a stagnant Cougar offense. He entered the game with center Chris Miles at the 14:14 mark and the Cougars trailing 11-2.
Seconds later, Cummard came flying down the lane to dunk a miss by Miles, and Burgess raced down the court to score on a steal. Fredette scored on a fake and drive down the middle to cut A&M's lead to 13-8 with 9:40 to play.
"I thought Jimmer played with a lot of confidence, and that was a good sign," said Rose.
With senior Ben Murdock nursing a sore ankle sprain, Fredette had seen significant playing time the past two weeks in practice.
"When he came in tonight, he came in with a lot of confidence," Rose said. "We were kind of stuck. We hadn't scored for a while and you know we were looking for a little bit of lift, and I thought Jimmer gave that to us."The Cougars had more shots (54-46) but made one less field goal (25-24) and one fewer 3-point basket (8-7) than the Aggies. They were outscored from the line by 2 (9-of-17 compared to 7-of-14), while the biggest difference was A&M's margin of 12, doing superior work on the glass at 37 rebounds to BYU's 25.
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