MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Jevon Carter had 19 points and nine rebounds as No. 18 West Virginia University hung on to defeat Texas A&M 81-77 in a down-to-the-wire thriller on Saturday afternoon in the first game of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Esa Ahmad scored 14 points and Daxter Miles Jr. had 10 for the Mountaineers.
WVU (17-4) led by as many as 20 in the second half but the Aggies refused to go away, going on a 22-8 run and pulling within six.
“They came out in the second half and didn’t play with any intensity,” Mountaineers’ head coach Bob Huggins said.
Adman Gilder led Texas A&M (11-9) with 24 points. JC Hampton recorded 21 points and Tyler Davis had 19 points and 18 rebounds. Robert Williams tallied eight points and grabbed 10 boards.
WVU had a 45-29 lead at the half and Miles’ 3-pointer extended it just 14 seconds in.
Carter’s 3-pointer with 2:36 remaining gave the Mountaineers a 74-61 edge.
Hampton’s 3 pulled the Aggies within nine with 1:23 to play and then Ahmad and Elijah Macon both missed crucial free throws, allowing Texas A&M to hang around.
Gilder’s dunk, Hampton’s 3-pointer and a pair of free throws from Gilder made it a 77-74 WVU lead.
Macon’s two-hand slam put the Mountaineers back up five but the Aggies responded with a 3 from Hampton to pull within 79-77 with 14 seconds remaining.
But Ahmad made two free throws with 4.4 seconds left to put the Mountaineers up 81-77.
WVU forced 23 turnovers and had 11 steals but its defense still lacked the distinctive intensity they frequently exuberate.
WVU shot 45 percent from the floor and made 11-of-26 from 3-point range. The Mountaineers shot an unsatisfactory 52 percent from the charity stripe, missing crucial shots down the stretch.
Texas A&M shot 47 percent from the field, 48 percent from beyond the arc and 72 percent from the line.
The Aggies outrebounded WVU 41-36 and had a 20-16 edge in the paint.
This was the Mountaineers first win over an SEC opponent in the challenge.
“For us, for me, I’ve been here and we lost every game so it meant a lot, Brandon Watkins said. “I didn’t want to go out and not win. For the Big 12, as well, to show everybody in the country that we have a strong conference.”
Texas A&M was without forward D.J. Hogg (13.1 points), who did not make the trip due to a foot injury.
WVU will travel to Aimes on Tuesday to take on Iowa State at 9 p.m.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS