KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Antwan Space hit a 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds left to lift Texas A&M to a 57-56 victory over Tennessee in Knoxville Saturday night.
The Aggies (11-4, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) trailed by as much as 14 points in the first half, and never led in the second half until the final basket.
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said the slow start was a combination of a young team and it being the Aggies' first true road game of the season. Previously, Texas A&M had played on three neutral sites, in addition to its 11 home games.
Texas A&M didn't make a field goal the last 9:34 of the first half and Tennessee led 32-18 at halftime.
Jamal Jones led the Texas A&M rally, scoring 20 of his 23 points in the second half and finishing the game 5 of 10 from 3-point range. Alex Caruso had 12 points for the Aggies. No other Texas A&M player scored more than six points.
With Texas A&M trailing 56-54 and only 17 seconds remaining, Caruso missed two free throws after being fouled by the Vols' Antonio Barton. Tennessee's Jeronne Maymon grabbed the rebound of the second missed free throw and was immediately fouled by Kourtney Roberson. Maymon then missed two free throws, giving the Aggies a final possession, setting up Space's game-winner.
Space, who didn't play in the first half, said he was looking for the Jones on the play, but couldn't find him and, instead, shot it himself.
Space was just 2 of 16 from 3-point range on the season before the game, but made both of his attempts from beyond the arc against the Vols.
Barton led Tennessee (10-5, 1-1) with 12 points. Josh Richardson scored 11. Jordan McRae, the Southeastern Conference's third-leading scorer entering the game, tied his season-low of nine points. Jarnell Stokes finished with just six points for Tennessee, all in the first half.
The loss ends a four-game winning streak for the Vols.
Tennessee built much of its first half lead with McRae and Stokes on the bench in foul trouble.
Last year's meeting between the Vols and Aggies was just as thrilling, with Tennessee escaping College Station with a four-overtime 93-85 victory.
Both teams return to the court for mid-week home games on Jan. 15. The Aggies host South Carolina, while Auburn visits Tennessee.
LOVE MY TEAM ✊🏀 Alex Caruso (@ACFresh21) January 12, 2014
God is good. Antwan Space (@AntwanSpace_IDK) January 12, 2014
On to the next one. Jordan Green V (@JDotGreenX116) January 12, 2014
Texas A&M Basketball
Texas A&M 57, Tennessee 56
Jan. 11, 2014 ● Thompson-Boling Arena
TEAM RECORDS & SERIES NOTES
● Texas A&M improved to 11-4 on the season and 2-0 in SEC play with the 57-56 road win over Tennessee at Thompson Boling Arena Saturday evening.
● The Aggies have opened SEC play 2-0 for the second straight season.
● The all-time series between the schools stands at 5-2 in favor of the Volunteers.
● The Aggies were lethal from the field during the second half, shooting 53.8 percent after halftime (14-of-26) ... Following the intermission, the Aggies held a 39-24 scoring edge.
● The Aggies held a 20-9 advantage in points off turnovers as the Vols were guilty of 16 give-a-ways in the contest ... A&M committed only eight turnovers.
● From beyond the 3-point arc, Texas A&M was 8-for-15 (53.3%) during the win.
● The Maroon & White used the starting line-up combination of Alex Caruso, Jordan Green, Fabyon Harris, Jamal Jones and Kourtney Roberson for the third time this season.
● The Volunteers owned a 32-18 lead at the intermission after shooting 40 percent (10-of-24) during the opening period ... The Aggies, meanwhile, shot 24 percent prior to halftime (6-of-24).
● Sophomore Antwan Space took only two shots in the contest but they were huge in the winning effort as they were both second half 3-point baskets, the last being the game-winner with just four seconds left in the contest.
● Junior Jamal Jones led the Aggies in scoring with 23 points on 8 of-19 shooting, including 20 in the second half.
● Sophomore Alex Caruso dished out eight assist in the contest after entering the weekend leading the SEC in both total assists and assists per game ... The College Station, Texas, native also added 12 points and four steals.
● A&M head coach Billy Kennedy is now 43-37 in his third season at Texas A&M and 254-216 in 16 years as a head coach.
● The Aggies return home to College Station to host South Carolina at Reed Arena on Wednesday (Jan. 15) ... The game is set to tip-off at 7 p.m. and will be televised by SEC TV.
POSTGAME QUOTES (courtesy utsports.com)
Texas A&M Head Coach Billy Kennedy
"Really proud of our guys for hanging in and believing in each other,. I thought we did a tremendous job guarding defensively. We were blessed, Antwan made a big shot and they missed some free throws, we missed some free throws, but our guys stuck together and kept believing and didn't quit."
(On the turning point)
"We got Jamal (Jones) going. We took good shots, our shot selection was much better and we were able to run our offense. Tavario Miller came in and gave us some good minutes and then Antwan came in the second half and did some good things. I thought we did a good job dictating the game on the offensive end and controlling some tempo."
(If Tennessee did anything defensively to surprise them)
"No, our coaches did a great job preparing us for the game, we knew what they were going to do and they knew what we were going to do. I just thought we missed some layups and some easy shots in the first half that we thought we should have made. We were fortunate that McRae and Stokes were in foul trouble in the first half. I thought the second half they pressed a little bit because they didn't play much of the first half."
(On the difference in shooting percentage from the first half to the second)
"This was our first road game, we've got a young team. We stayed in the game, which was key, after the first half and then we just established some poise and tempo and stopped taking quick shots. We moved the ball side-to side and I thought that was a big key for us."