UT Tyler came up short by a final score of 70-66 in a tightly contested overtime battle with Texas A&M International on Thursday night inside the Herrington Patriot Center.
The Patriots had the chance to end the game in regulation after Texas A&M International tied it up at 59-59 with 21 seconds remaining on the clock, but turned it over without a shot attempt due to an offensive foul call against them with five seconds left in regulation. Texas A&M International missed a shot at the buzzer on the ensuing possession, but connected on nine of their 10 free throw opportunities in the five minute overtime period to outscore UT Tyler by an 11-7 margin and escape with the road victory.
Senior Micah Fuller led four Patriots in double-digit scoring figures with 17 points, but was also one of the four Patriots that fouled out with five personal fouls throughout the contest. Classmate Soloman Thomas had 13 points and Da’Zhon Wyche and Paul Djoko each had 10.
Texas A&M International shot just 34.5 percent (19-of-55) from the floor for the contest, but cashed in on 26 of their 33 free throw opportunities to keep pace with the Patriots. UT Tyler went 10-for-22 (45.5 percent) from beyond the three-point line for the game and outrebounded the Dustdevils by a 40-to-37 margin.
The teams matched scoring outputs in both halves, taking a 32-32 tie game to the wire without a winner after 27 points apiece in the second half of action. The scoring differential never reached greater than five points in the second half, a margin that came at the 40-35 mark in favor of UT Tyler with 17:10 left in the final 20 minutes of action.
The lead would change hands four times from that point forward, as both teams struggled offensively in the second half with just eight made shots each from the field. Both teams made just two baskets over the course of the final four minutes as freshman Kyle Frelow and Djoko both made shots in the final 1:05 of the game that gave the Patriots the advantage.
Frelow’s lay-up with 1:05 left gave UT Tyler their first lead since the 5:39 mark, a 57-55 advantage. That lead lasted just over 10 seconds as Texas A&M International made a two-pointer of their own to even the score up at 57-57 with 54 seconds left.
Djoko then answered with the three straight bucket made between the two teams in as many possessions to once again put UT Tyler back ahead by two. The Dustdevils answered for a second time and made it four straight possessions that ended in a make for the two 10-plus win teams entering the contest.
The Patriots drew the clock down to single digits before Thomas drove into the lane to draw contact, but was called for the offensive foul with five seconds on the clock. Texas A&M International dribbled the length of the court following the Patriot turnover, their first possession in the final minute without a basket, but missed the game winner at the buzzer.
The two teams then combined for just three makes from the field in the five minute overtime period, but UT Tyler was called for five fouls, all of which resulted in free-throw attempts for the Dustdevils thanks to the double bonus.
Those makes early in the frame gave Texas A&M International a 64-61 lead with 2:04 on the clock before UT Tyler worked for their best scoring chances of the extra time period on the ensuing possession. Djoko and sophomore Finn Fleute were unable to convert on layup attempts during that next possession, and then Wyche missed a pair of quality three-point looks after a Patriot stop following the misses from Djoko and Fleute.
The Dustdevils converted on their next two free-throw looks to make it a five-point lead with 20 seconds left, before Fuller drained a much-needed three pointer with 15 seconds left to make it a one-possession ball game. That three pointer from Fuller made it 66-64 with 15 seconds left, but Texas A&M International converted on their final four free throw attempts and avoided any turnovers to come away with the victory.
Fuller finished his evening 4-of-7 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Djoko led the team with seven rebounds to add to his 10 points.
The loss drops the Patriots to 11-6 on the year and 3-5 in Lone Star Conference play. Texas A&M International moves to 11-5 and 3-2 in league play.
UT Tyler will wrap up their three game homestand on Saturday afternoon with their third straight game against an opponent with 10 or more wins in a 4 p.m. meeting with Texas A&M-Kingsville.