Redshirt sophomore Antwan Space didn’t play a single minute in the first half of Texas A&M’s game at Tennessee on January 11. The Aggies were down 32-18 at halftime.
When his name was finally called, he knew what he had to do.
“My mindset was just to do anything we could do to win,” Space recalls. “We had already made a pretty good run without me being there. Jamal (Jones) was pretty much carrying us, and when I got in there I just wanted to rebound, defend and do whatever I could to help my team win.”
The Aggies fought back—and were down just two with 17 seconds to play.
No one could envision what would happen next.
“The play call was totally different from what happened,” Space said. “The call was to get it to Jamal—he had the hot hand all night. But Kourtney (Roberson) had set an early screen so I felt like it was just a good opportunity to pop up, which is a play we usually run. AC (Alex Caruso) came off, gave it to me. I didn’t really know the time situation very well, so I just thought, ‘I have the ball in my hands and I need to shoot this’. And it went in.”
Space's shot found the net with 4.4 seconds left.
A frantic rush up court by the Vols and a missed desperation shot later, the Aggies had stole one on the road against Sweet 16-bound Tennessee.
A little over a month later that same Tennessee team came to Reed Arena to try and steal one back from the Ags.
The game played itself out a bit differently than the first tilt. Overtime was in the cards. Space had played a team-high 35 minutes.
The ending, however, would be all too familiar to the Vols.
“This play call was actually for me. A lot of people thought it still was for Jamal, but it was kind of a fake. Jamal was our leading scorer and one of our best scorers. I faked it to Jamal, and I kind of figured that they would bite, and I would get a one-on-one with Jarnell Stokes to take him all the way to the rim and get a layup.
“As I was driving to the rim he bit for it, so I just stepped back and I shot it. This shot was unlike the first one because I really felt confident in this one. This was a shot I knew I could make. So I just shot it with confidence and it went in, and we got the W.”
A second dagger from beyond the arc put A&M up three with just a few seconds left. Space then stole the ball as Tennessee tried to rush up court and, like the game six weeks prior, this one went to the Aggies as well.
Space, the catalyst behind many of the Aggie wins last season, never thought he’d be hitting game-winners for the maroon and white.
He began his career at Florida State. After one year in Tallahassee, Space had to make some changes.
“I have a daughter and she was born while I was at Florida State in October 2011. I definitely wanted to be closer to her, closer to my family. I felt here at A&M I could have a bigger role. I knew Coach Kennedy, so I felt comfortable when I got here. A few of my old high school teammates were playing on the team at the time, and I knew Jordan Green from high school. So I just wanted to be somewhere where I was comfortable, where I didn’t have to readjust all the way.
“I got here, the campus was great, facilities are top of the line. It was an easy choice for me to come here.”
He sat out a year due to NCAA rules. This past season was his first on the court at Reed Arena. Antwan had his ups and downs, but by the end of conference play he had solidified his spot as the “four” in the Aggies’ starting lineup.
“For me, last year was just a huge learning experience. I learned a lot from the older guys like Kourtney. I really learned to play in the atmosphere—playing in front of Tennessee, Kentucky, thousands of fans screaming. That was my first year actually playing meaningful minutes in that kind of atmosphere. So I just take last year as a learning experience for me and I feel like next year will be better for all of us.”
Next season will see a lot of changes for the Aggies. Antwan will be an upperclassman, so the coaching staff and young guys will look to Space for leadership and for him to do what he does best.
“Being an older guy, I know everything we do in the season—it starts right now. We’re going to work hard. Me and Jordan, Kourtney, AC—we’re the leaders now. We’re just trying to direct the young guys, we have to stay in the gym, work hard and take this seriously. Because this time of year is the most important.”