Texas A&M rallies to beat Arizona State 72-71
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Forward Kourtney Roberson entered Saturday's action against Arizona State a 50 percent free throw shooter this season, and that's exactly the proportion that helped lift Texas A&M to a thrilling 72-71 victory over the Sun Devils on Saturday in Reed Arena.
After missing badly on his first attempt, Roberson made the second of two free throws with 5.1 seconds remaining to lift the Aggies (6-1) to the eventual final score, and ASU's Tra Holder missed a hurried 3-pointer as time expired.
''Kourtney's been working on shooting free throws, and his hard work paid off,'' A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. ''Fortunately, he made a big one.''
While Roberson scored the final point, guard Alex Caruso primarily helped the Aggies wipe out a 13-point deficit to win their fifth consecutive game. Caruso scored a season-high 23 points, and for good measure added six rebounds, six assists and six steals against the Sun Devils.
Jordan Green and Jalen Jones each added 13 points for the Aggies, while Holder led the Sun Devils (5-3) with 14 points, and Jonathan Gilling and Bo Barnes followed with 12 each.
The game was tied at 69 when Caruso stole the ball near midcourt with 1:19 remaining, but he shoved the ball against the front of the rim on an attempted dunk on the ensuing fast break. Undaunted, Caruso then stole the ball again near midcourt on the Sun Devils' resulting possession, and this time tallied a layup to lift A&M to a 71-69 lead with 47 seconds left.
Caruso, who finished 9 of 11 from the floor, said he tried hurrying the dunk when he saw a defender rushing up behind him, but made sure and get it right the second time.
''I missed the dunk, hustled back on the next play and it all worked out,'' Caruso said, smiling.
Added Kennedy of his standout guard: ''Alex doesn't get rattled. If he misses a dunk it's, `So what?' and on to the next play. That (missed dunk) bothered me more than it bothered him.''
The Sun Devils, who led 45-34 at halftime, scored their most points in the first half on the road since 46 at Oregon in 2010, before unraveling late against the Aggies' zone defense.
''For us the story lines are 17 turnovers, several of which led to easy baskets and conversions down on the other end,'' ASU coach Herb Sendek said.
Nearly midway through the second half, ASU had made 11 of 19 3-pointers and led 60-49. But the Sun Devils cooled considerably the rest of the way, in missing nine of their final 10 attempts from beyond the arc.
''Once we were down 11 of 12 (points), we realized we could actually lose the game,'' Caruso said of the Aggies' frenetic comeback.
Kennedy said the Aggies backed off their typical man-to-man defense in an effort to climb back into the game.
''Arizona State is very hard to guard, and in the second half going to a zone gave them some problems and slowed the game down,'' Kennedy said.
The Aggies won for the first time in five tries against ASU, and the programs hadn't played since 1998. . A&M snagged a season-high 11 steals, with Jones (two) the only other Aggie besides Caruso with more than one. . Sendek insisted the Sun Devils didn't tire down the stretch, in going cold from long range. ''We just had some miscalculated turnovers, and you've got to give A&M credit, their defense really picked up in the second half,'' he said.
The Aggies prevailed despite ASU holding considerable advantages in rebounding (30-22), bench points (38-12) and shooting percentage (53.2 to 50.9). . Caruso scored 13 of his points in the second half.
''Extraneous words.'' Alex Caruso, when asked what he said to encourage Kourtney Roberson prior to Roberson's game-winning free throw - after he'd badly missed a first attempt.
Texas A&M plays at Baylor on Tuesday.
Arizona State plays host to Pepperdine on Dec. 13 (Saturday).