Top-seeded Houston needs OT to avoid March Madness exit, gets by No. 9 Texas A&M 100-95

Texas A&M guard Manny Obaseki (35) celebrates a three-point basket against Houston during the first half of a second-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 24, 2024, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Texas A&M guard Manny Obaseki (35) celebrates a three-point basket against Houston during the first half of a second-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 24, 2024, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Houston Cougars breathed a sigh of relief celebrating their latest Sweet 16 berth.

What looked like a victory in hand turned into an overtime thriller in the span of two minutes.

Emanuel Sharp started overtime with a 3-pointer that put Houston ahead to stay as the top-seeded Cougars advanced to the Sweet 16 back in Texas by topping No. 9 seed Texas A&M 100-95 on Sunday night.

Houston coach Kelvin Sampson credited playing this debut season in the Big 12, filled with lots of close games, with having his Cougars ready for this game.

“We’re very fortunate tonight to win. Texas A&M could’ve won that game,” Sampson said. “But only one team can advance. I’ve learned not to autopsy wins at this time of the year. So we move on.”

The Aggies forced overtime with a furious rally, outscoring Houston 17-5 in the final two minutes of regulation. Andersson Garcia beat the buzzer with his ninth 3-pointer of the season, and then was mobbed by his teammates.

“Obviously, it’s a shot that will go down in Texas A&M lore,” Aggies coach Buzz Williams said. “It was to tie. It wasn’t to win, you know?”

Sampson called the final two minutes of regulation “Murphy’s Law,” with missed free throws and the ball bouncing everywhere.

“They didn’t miss a 3,” Sampson said. “And they didn’t make an easy one. They were all hard 3’s.”

Sharp fouled out after his 3, finishing with 30 points. His teammates outscored Texas A&M 7-1 to start the extra session and close it out.

The win by Houston (32-4) means all eight teams seeded 1 and 2 advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time since the NCAA tourney started seeding in 1979. The top eight seeds also advanced in 2019, 2009, 1995 and 1989.

The Cougars will play Duke, a 93-55 winner over James Madison, on Friday in Dallas in the South Region semifinals. This will be Houston’s fifth straight Sweet 16 and 16th all-time.

They are playing in part for Reggie Chaney, a forward who was part of Houston’s Final Four team in 2021, who died in August at the age of 23. Chaney’s No. 32 is on a patch on Houston jerseys, and Sampson said at halftime he asked his Cougars what would Chaney do in this game.

“That was for big Reg,” Sampson said.

Jamal Shead had 21 points and 10 assists for Houston. He was one of four Cougars who fouled out.

Shead mentioned how Sampson talked about how hard Chaney would have played, pointing to the 32 on his jersey.

“We’re built for this,” Shead said. “I just miss my dog. On to the Sweet 16.”

Texas A&M (21-15) was trying to make the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2018 in its second straight NCAA Tournament under coach Buzz Williams. The Aggies had been 6-1 in March only to revert to the team that struggled offensively much of the season.

The Cougars represented the Big 12 in their first season in the conference by adding to the Southeastern Conference’s misery. Only Tennessee and Alabama advanced to the Sweet 16 out of the SEC’s eight teams in the tournament.

L.J. Cryer added 20 points, and J’Wan Roberts fought through a knee issue with 13.

Wade Taylor had been on a scoring tear and hit a career-high seven 3s in the Aggies’ win over Nebraska. The guard missed his first seven shots and finished with 21 points on 5-of-26 shooting, including 3 of 13 beyond the arc.

Tyrece Radford, who missed the December loss to Houston, had 27 points and 15 rebounds. Manny Obaseki added 15 before fouling out, and Garcia had 12.

Houston led 43-38 after a fast-paced first half.

BIG PICTURE

Texas A&M: The Aggies at least go home with a big win in the first round after leaving this tournament empty-handed a year ago. … They set several program records in this event in the opening win, including making 13 3s. In this game, the Aggies wound up 8 of 23 outside the arc and shot 29 of 45 at the free-throw line.

Houston: The Cougars became the first team to win a tournament game with four players fouling out since 1987. … They improved to 8-2 as a No. 1 seed. … They now have won at least 32 games for the fifth time. Shead and fellow seniors Roberts and Ryan Elvin can try to add to their mark as the winningest four-year class in Cougars history already at 125-18. … Coach Kelvin Sampson now is 22-1 against the Aggies, including 21-1 with the Cougars.

UP NEXT

The Cougars will have the home-court advantage against Duke on Friday night, even with Dallas a 245-mile drive from Houston. ___

AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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