ORLANDO, Fla. - The No. 12 Texas A&M men's basketball team held off Penn State down the stretch on its way to an 89-77 victory in first-round action at the ESPN Events Invitational in front of a crowd of 3,061 on Thursday at the State Farm Field House at the ESPN Wide World of Sports.
The Aggies improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2017-18, while the Nittany Lions suffered their first loss of the season to drop to 4-1. Texas A&M will face FAU (def. Butler 91-86 in first round) in the first semifinal game at 10 a.m. on Friday on ESPN2.
With the Aggies holding a tenuous four-point lead with just over five minutes remaining, the Aggies' "Big 3" of Wade Taylor IV, Henry Coleman III and Tyrece Radford combined to scored 16 of the Aggies' final 18 points to pull away for the 12-point victory.
The trio tallied double-figure points with Coleman leading the way with a game-high 24, while Taylor IV chipped in 23 and Radford had 14. The SEC's top scoring guard tandem did yeoman work on the boards with Taylor and Radford, along with Coleman, pulling down a game-high six rebounds. Senior Andersson Garcia was big off the bench with five rebounds, including four on the offensive end, and matching his career high with four assists.
Boosted by an impressive 56 points in the paint, the Aggies shot 59.6% from the field for the game which matched the best shooting game of the Buzz Williams era at Texas A&M (since 2019-20). The Aggies' starting lineup combined to hit 25-of-39 shots for a sparkling 64.1 field goal percentage. Against the nation's No. 2 team at forcing turnovers (21.5 per game entering the game), the Aggies suffered just 10 turnovers. The Aggies posted a 13-rebound advantage in total boards, 33-20, including a 21-13 bulge on the defensive end.
With the Aggies trailing 24-22 in the first half, a clock malfunction caused a long delay, but the Aggies came out of the break hot and scored 10 unanswered points over the next two minutes grab a 30-24 advantage at the 4-minute media timeout. Texas A&M continued to surge as they moved its lead to double-digits with :53 seconds left in the first half and eventually took a 39-32 lead into halftime.
STARTING STRONG: The 89-77 win over the Nittany Lions, moves Texas A&M to a perfect 5-0 record. This is the first time in the Buzz Williams era that the Aggies have started undefeated through five games. The last time A&M had a clean 5-0 start was the 2017-18 season when the Aggies went 7-0 before falling to Arizona.
PAINT PRESENCE: Texas A&M dominated around the rim scoring 56 of its 89 points from the paint. The Maroon & White also tabbed 23 second-chance points to Penn State's seven and outrebounded the Nittany Lions 33-20. Henry Coleman III led the charge and put up a team-high 24 points, followed by Wade Taylor IV who has scored double-digit points in 17 consecutive games including today's season-high 23-point performance.
EXECUTING ON EVERY LEVEL: The Aggies were more efficient than Nittany Lions at every level of the game as they went 60-percent from the field to Penn State's 53-percent, 36-percent to the Nittany Lions 32-percent from the three-point line and 76-percent to the opposing 68-percent at the charity stripe.
AGGIE DEPTH: All 10 Aggies that saw the floor put points up on the board, 21 of those points off the bench. Highlighted by Jace Carter who scored six and had four boards and Solomon Washington who recorded six points, three rebounds and an assist. The A&M bench also compiled six of the 12 assists by Texas A&M, and 13 rebounds