GOLDEN, Colo. – The Texas A&M University-Commerce men's basketball team staged a furious second half comeback, but ultimately fell short to West Texas A&M University, falling 97-86 in the South Central Regional Quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Championship.
The Lions end their season with a record of 19-11 after the program's sixth overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
- Malik Albert led all scorers with 33 points and 10 rebounds, also contributing a pair of blocks and two steals.
- Jovan Austin netted 19 points for the Lions.
- A&M-Commerce only turned the ball over seven times in the contest.
- West Texas A&M held a 44-36 rebounding advantage.
- The Lions trailed by as many as 19 in the contest before staging the furious comeback.
- A&M-Commerce cut that lead to as few as five points in the second half.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Buffs went on three runs in the first half that contributed to their lead. After Marquieth Russell scored the game's first basket for A&M-Commerce, West Texas scored 12 of the next 14 points, leaping out to a 12-4 lead. The Lions responded with a 6-2 run on a basket by Montrell Little and back-to-back scores from Daquane Willford, narrowing the deficit to three points at 13-10 with 14:15 left in the first half.
With 12 minutes to go, the Lions trailed by four at 18-14, but the Buffs proceeded to go on a nine-point run in just over two minutes. Those nine straight points suddenly had the Lions down 27-14.
The Lions would make pushes to get the margin minimized, but did not get it back to single digits. A seven-point WT run pushed the Buffs' advantage to 18 points at 44-26, and the higher seeded squad scored the half's final five points and took a 49-30 lead into the halftime locker room.
Trey Seymore, Russell, and Willford each scored six points in the first half, while Russell and Albert tied for the team lead in rebounds at five. The Buffs held a 25-19 rebounding edge at the break and both teams had eight offensive rebounds. The Lions were held to a 12-of-34 (35.3 percent) shooting clip, while WT shot 17-of 35 (48.6 percent). The Buffs also had five first half three-pointers to the Lions' one.
Despite the large halftime disadvantage, the Lions were not deterred, fighting back to cut the lead to as few as five points in just 12 minutes of second half action.
An Albert three-pointer at the 16:38 mark put the Lions with 10 points at 55-45, part of a 19-6 run in the opening five-plus minutes. Albert's layup at the 14:37 mark made it a 55-49 contest.
The Buffs snuck ahead slightly, pushing the lead back into double figures at 64-53 with 12:47 to go, but another Lion run cut the lead back down to five. A Trey Washington fastbreak layup at the 9:10 mark capped an 8-2 run that had the Lions down only 66-61.
The Lions were within arm's reach of cutting the lead to a single possession, but the Buffs went on an 8-0 run that saw the Lions miss a shot and turn the ball over in that span. WT led 76-63 with 7:09 to go.
A&M-Commerce went on a 7-2 run in the latter stages, cutting the lead back down to 88-81 with just under three minutes remaining. The lead was still at seven inside the final two minutes before WT's David Chavlovich drained a three-pointer to get the lead back to 10.
The Lions missed five of their final six shots, seeing the comeback effort fall just short, putting an end to an impressive season.
A&M-Commerce shot 55.9 percent (19-of-34) from the floor in the second half, outscoring the Buffs, 56-48.