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Texas A&M Falls to UC Irvine on Last-Second Shot

Eyassu Worku quieted the crowd as he scored on a falling 12-footer with 6.4 seconds remaining that lifted UC Irvine to its second consecutive comeback victory.

Worku lost his balance on a baseline drive and fell backward, but swished his shot to give the Anteaters their only lead of the second half, and the first since nine minutes into the opening half.

Max Hazzard scored 19 points to lead UC Irvine (2-0), while Robert Cartwright added 10.

The Anteaters trailed 42-32 at halftime and were still down 10 points with nine minutes remaining. In its season opener three days earlier, Irvine trailed at intermission before storming to an 86-68 win over Idaho.

“We have excellent depth, a lot of guys that can play,” Irvine coach Russell Turner said. “We also have smart players that can continue to adjust throughout the game.”

Junior forward Josh Nebo, playing his second game after missing a season following his transfer from Saint Francis, led Texas A&M (1-1) with 15 points. Jay Jay Chandler added 12, while Savion Flagg and John Walker each scored 11, but the Aggies managed only two free throws while being outscored 9-2 in the last 3:23.

The Aggies tried to stall Irvine’s comeback when TJ Starks made a 3-pointer after an offensive rebound by Nebo, pushing A&M ahead 71-65 with 3:50 left. However, Irvine’s Elston Jones made two free throws after Chandler was called for a flagrant foul on a scrum under the basket. The Anteaters kept possession and got a 3-point play by Jones that trimmed A&M’s lead to 71-70.

Christian Mekowulu hit two free throws for the Aggies, but Irvine answered with a basket by Tommy Rutherford.

Starks missed a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left, setting the stage for Worku’s go-ahead score.

A&M inbounded without calling a timeout and pushed the ball up the floor, but Starks missed a long 3-point attempt as time expired.

Russell said Anteaters players and staff would attend A&M’s yell practice in advance of Saturday’s football game against Mississippi out of respect for A&M athletic traditions, but Irvine did not respect the Aggies outside shooting.

“We were basically daring them to beat us with jump shots, and they nearly did,” Russell said.

The Aggies struggled from behind the 3-point line, making just 6 of 28 (21.4 percent).

“I’m disappointed,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “It was a hard-fought game and UC Irvine made more shots than we did. We didn’t get a stop at the end. They made a tough shot. That’s what it came down to.”


Texas A&M Basketball Postgame Notes
UC Irvine 74, Texas A&M 73
Nov. 9, 2018 | Reed Arena (College Station Texas) 


  • Texas A&M fell to 1-1 on Friday night at Reed Arena, defeated 74-73 by UC Irvine.


  • The Aggies held a then-game-high 10-point advantage at the half, scoring the last five points in the opening 20 minutes, including a buzzer-beater by Jay Jay Chandler from just over the mid-court line. A&M held a 7-0 advantage on fast break points before the break.
  • For the second straight game, A&M owned a double-digit advantage in second chance points. The Aggies corralled 18 offensive rebounds leading to 20 second-chance points, while the Anteaters mustered only eight second-chance points.
  • Texas A&M used the starting lineup combination of TJ StarksChris CollinsJay Jay ChandlerSavion Flagg and Christian Mekowulufor the second time this season (1-1).


  • Junior Josh Nebo scored in double figures for the second straight game, leading the Aggies with 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting. The St. Francis transfer recorded a double-double for the first time in an Aggie uniform and 11th time in his collegiate career as he finished with a team-high 10 rebounds. Additionally, Nebo recorded a trio of blocks in back-to-back games to open the season.
  • Joining Nebo in double-digit scoring were sophomores Jay Jay Chandler and Savion Flagg, as well as freshman John Walker III. All three Aggies also scored in double figures in Wednesday’s season opener. This marked just the second time that Flagg had scored 10-or-more points in back-to-back games, while it was the first time for Chandler and Walker III.
  • Graduate transfer Christian Mekowulu was an impressive 7-for-7 from the free throw stripe.
  • Billy Kennedy is now 138-99 during his eight-year tenure at Texas A&M and 349-278 in 21 seasons as a head coach.


  • The Aggies embark on an extended road trip as they face off against No. 3 Gonzaga on Nov. 15 before taking a trip north of the border for the Vancouver Showcase. In Canada, Texas A&M will play Minnesota and Washington at the Vancouver Convention Centre.


Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Billy Kennedy
Opening Statement… 
“Obviously I am disappointed. That was a hard fought game. UC Irvine made one more play than we did down the stretch. But, you have got to make threes when teams play a zone. You have to be able to make some shots, and at times we took some tough shots. But, you have to give them credit. I thought they had a little more poise down the stretch than we did.”
On how important it is to get defensive stops…
“They made some threes and when you get them in transition you have to beat them with your defense, and at the end we weren’t able to do that.”

Junior forward Josh Nebo 
On the placement of the ball throughout the game and if that was the game plan…
“It was kind of tough to get it inside because they were playing zone and it was kind of hard to throw it directly into the paint. We had to play from the outside because of the way the zone was being played.”

On how much Admon Gilder’s leadership was missed in the final seconds… 
“We missed it a lot. He’s one of the best defenders on our team, he’s probably one of the better defenders in our conference, and we missed him a lot tonight. He’s our leader, he’s our captain, but we just have to have a ‘next man up’ mentality and keep playing hard without him.

On his mentality during the game… 
“I feel like my mentality in each game is just to go in and be aggressive and that’s how the people really know me from where I came from. I just have to go out and play hard every night and do my job. That’s all I try to do, I just try to do my job every night, help the team win.”

UC Irvine head coach Russell Turner
Opening statement…
“I’m just really pleased with our ability to hang in in this game and give ourselves a chance at the end. I’m also really appreciative of the opportunity that our program has to play here at Texas A&M. Our guys are obviously really excited. It’s a special thing when a program like ours gets to come on the road and play at a place like this and have a chance to win, so we value that.”

On the second half victories this season… 
“I think we have a combination of things that give us that chance, first, we have excellent depth. We have a lot of guys, and that’s a credit to the staff I’ve got and the depth of our recruiting. I think we also have smart players that can continue to adjust throughout the game. In the first half, we didn’t do a real good job at executing our game plan for large parts of that period, but I thought we got better in the second half. We obviously took better care of the ball, we obviously did a better job at defending the paint and rebounding, and that’s been true of both games. In this game, it was really hard for us to execute offense cleanly because of some of the natural advantages that Texas A&M has with their players, but we found a way to get the shots that we needed to give ourselves a chance, and that’s been true of both games.”

On the consistency of the three pointers… 
“When we made shots, or didn’t turn it over, we knew we could be back on defense and force Texas A&M to be uncomfortable. We worked the ball better I thought, and took better rhythmed shots. I thought that we could go inside to score, and we did that, and also to compress their defense. I thought we did both those things a lot better in the second half than we did in the first half.”

Story courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics

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Posted by on Nov 10 2018. Filed under Sports.
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