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November 21, 2007

A&M advances to NIT Tip-Off title game

NEW YORK (AP) -- Texas A&M has prided itself on defense over the last few seasons.

Even with a new coach, the focus is still the same.

Donald Sloan scored a career-high 18 points and No. 16 Texas A&M held Washington without a field goal for a key 5-minute stretch in the second half to beat the Huskies 77-63 on Wednesday night in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals.

"Our identity is defense," said first-year A&M coach Mark Turgeon. "The previous staff built this team around defense and we did that in the second half."

After allowing Washington to shoot 53 percent from the field in the first half, Texas A&M clamped down and held the Huskies to just 26 percent shooting in the second half.

Joseph Jones added 17 points for the Aggies (5-0), who will play the winner of Syracuse and Ohio State on Friday night in the championship game at Madison Square Garden.

Jon Brockman had 21 points and 15 rebounds to lead Washington (3-1). He only had eight points in the second half.

"They did a little better job in the post and bringing in a second guy," said Brockman of the Aggies defensive change in the second half.

The Aggies held a 55-54 lead with 7:14 left when they went on a 12-2 run to put the game away. Jones started the spurt, hitting two free throws and Dominique Kirk's 3-pointer with 5:17 left gave Texas A&M a 60-54 lead. After two free throws by Joe Wolfinger cut the deficit to four, the Aggies worked down the shot clock and finished off the possession with a one-handed dunk down the lane by Bryan Davis.

Texas A&M extended the lead to 67-56 on Jones' free throws before Justin Dentmon ended the drought for the Huskies with a lay-up with 1:41 left.

"They did a good job guarding us," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "We didn't knock down shots at crucial stages."

Aggies freshman DeAndre Jordan continued his stellar play. He came into the game having made 16 straight field goals to set a school and Big 12 record. Jordan made his first attempt, but missed a follow to end his streak at 17 straight. He fell seven short of the NCAA record set by Ray Voekel for American during the 1978-79 season.

Jordan finished with eight points and 10 rebounds. The Aggies outrebounded Washington 48-39.

"The rebounding was disappointing," Romar said. "Most of the time they had two giants out there."

Trailing 36-32 at the half, Texas A&M went on an 8-2 run to start the second half. Jones' follow gave the Aggies a 40-38 advantage, their first lead since early in the game. They built the lead to 49-44 on Jones' 3-pointer with 12:04 left.

Washington closed to 52-51 on Brockman's jump hook. Sloan hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead back to four before Wolfinger answered with a 3 with 7:14 left. That was the last field goal for the Huskies until Dentmon's lay-up.

The Aggies beat Oral Roberts and UTEP to advance to the semifinals in New York. The Huskies topped New Jersey Tech and Utah to earn their trip to Madison Square Garden.

The Huskies jumped on the Aggies early. Brockman scored the first seven points for Washington, which took an early 19-9 lead midway through the first half. Brockman finished the half with 13 and 11 rebounds. The Aggies rallied behind Sloan to only trail 36-32 at the break.

Texas A&M could have been leading at the half, but the Aggies were just 4-for-11 from the foul line.


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