It appeared Rick Barnes was going to earn his first marquee victory at Tennessee for most of the game on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville, Tenn. The Volunteers led No. 21 Texas A&M by 10 points with four minutes left in a game they had controlled most of the way, but the Aggies prevailed 92-88.
“We had a chance, but we just didn’t take care of the ball,” Barnes said according to the university’s Twitter account. “When you have a lead, your offense has to take care of the ball.”
The Vols (8-7, 1-2) relinquished the lead they had worked all day to establish, but still had two shots to win the game in the closing moments. Kevin Punter missed a layup in close, but the Vols pulled down the offensive rebound and kicked it out to a wide open Detrick Mostella, whose potential game-winning 3-pointer clanked off the rim and was pulled down by Texas A&M’s Danuel House to end the game.
With four minutes left, Texas A&M (13-2, 3-0) staged an 11-0 rally to storm to an 85-84 lead. After a Vols’ free throw tied the game up, Jalen Jones put the Aggies on his back, like he had all afternoon, and sank a layup 11 seconds later to put Texas A&M up 87-85. The Aggies never looked back.
Tennessee was reckless with the basketball, committing 18 turnovers. Those miscues countered Tennessee’s 49 percent shooting performance and the six players who scored in double figures. Punter led the Volunteers with 19 points, but was 4-of-11 from the floor. Barnes said Punter will have to do a better job when he’s being game planned against.
“You have a big old bullseye on your back,” Barnes said of Punter, according to The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Grant Ramey.
The Aggies were led by Jones, who scored 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting and guard Danuel House, who poured in 23 points. The Aggies overcame a brutal start to the game, during which they scored only 15 points and committed seven turnovers in the first 10 minutes of action.
Texas A&M will have a quick turnaround before hosting Florida on Tuesday night. Tennessee will look to rebound from this missed opportunity when it travels to Georgia on Wednesday.