SPOKANE, Wash. - It wasn't supposed to end like this for Texas A&M, but guard B.J. Holmes and forward Bryan Davis were left in tears on the floor of the Spokane Arena Sunday in the final game of the first weekend in the NCAA tournament. Head coach Mark Turgeon fought from breaking down in the press conference, but he cried anyway.
When the brackets were released on Selection Sunday it looked ripe for A&M to march its way to Houston and the Sweet 16. Even as the fifth seed, A&M saw a fourth seed in Purdue that had limped its way into the NCAA tournament after losing star forward Robbie Hummel to a torn ACL.
A&M knows all about injuries, losing senior guard Derrick Roland to a broken leg in December. The Aggies rebounded and were one of the hottest teams in the field of 65. Purdue found itself this weekend, and toughed out a 63-61 overtime win over the Aggies.
"In a game like this tight, you can't give up layups but more than anything I'm sad because this has been one of the best years of my life," said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. "And coaching these guys has been so much fun. I'm really going to miss coaching this team."
A&M's season ended Sunday when Purdue senior guard Chris Kramer, known as a defensive specialist, became the offensive hero when he drove on A&M forward Nathan Walkup to get to the rim and get a lay-up to fall with 4.6 seconds left on the clock.
A&M guard Dash Harris got the ball down the floor and in the hands of guard B.J. Holmes, but the last-second 3-point shot fell short, clanging off the rim.
"When I walked in (the huddle) I said I wanted the ball, and it just came down to just making a play," Kramer said. "Our guys battled the whole game to get us in that position and it came down to one play, and we were able to make that plays and at this point just survive and advance."
The loss ends the A&M careers of seniors Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis. Davis went out with what could possibly be the best game of his career. Facing a 6-10 big man in Purdue's JaJuan Johnson, Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds, and added three assists, three steals and two blocks.
Sloan, meanwhile, had a day to forget as he was constantly pressured off the ball and with a double team anytime the ball was in his hands. Sloan still got to double digits with 11 points, but he was 4-17 from the field and scored only three points after halftime.
"I thought their defense was - we played a lot of good teams including West Virginia, and played them early in the year, but Purdue's defense is the best defense we have seen," Turgeon said. "Sloan got in the paint, he got some good looks. It just wasn't Sloan's day. He had a great year, but it wasn't his day."
Kramer led the way for Purdue with 17 points and seven rebounds while Johnson had 11 points, three rebounds and three blocks. All his points and boards came after halftime. Guard E'Twaun Moore added 15 points and six boards.
The Aggies dominated in the paint for the majority of the afternoon as Loubeau and Davis combined for 29 points and 22 rebounds and leading A&M to a 45-39 advantage on the glass, but considering the size advantage Purdue head coach Matt Painter called the deficit a success.
"Our guys battled and you never want to get out-rebounded by six and say it's an accomplishment, but it wasn't for a lack of effort," Painter said. "I thought out guys really just hung in there and tried to keep balls alive and tried to get loose balls and long rebounds the whole night."
A&M held a 35-29 lead at halftime and pushed it out to 40-29, but then Purdue upped its level of play on the defensive end and quickly went on an 8-0 run to pull within three. But it wouldn't stop there. Three minutes and 20 seconds after leading by 11, the Aggies found themselves down 43-42.
The battle went back and forth the rest of the way with Purdue opening up a 55-50 advantage, but A&M would crawl back to tie it up at 55-55. Purdue didn't score for the last 4:30 of regulation.
In overtime A&M scored first, and on every possession that the Aggies scored Purdue would answer. Davis missed a close shot with Johnson defending him, which set up Purdue for the last shot with 10.1 seconds left and the game tied 61-61. Kramer drove early in the possession and got the lay-up to fall, ending the Aggies season.
"We felt comfortable with Nate guarding Kramer there, and Nate's done it for us all year. Nate rebounds well for us too," Turgeon said. "We just thought it was a better matchup than David (Loubeau) guarding Kramer. It didn't work out that way, obviously, but no matter who we had in there, David or him, they were going to drive him and that what they tried to do. And it just didn't work out for us."