exas A&M took advantage of its opportunities from the free throw line, including 11 consecutive makes to end the game, as the Aggies earned a 68-61 win over Kansas State in the eighth annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday morning in front of a limited capacity crowd of 942 fans at Bramlage Coliseum.
With the victory, Texas A&M (8-7, 2-6 SEC) earned the SEC’s first win in the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge, including the second in 3 seasons over K-State (5-13, 1-8 Big 12), which dropped its eighth game in a row.
The loss spoiled a near historic performance by Wildcat freshman guard Nijel Pack, who scored a season-high 26 points on 9-of-16 field goals, including an 8-of-14 effort from 3-point range, to go with 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals in just his second game back from missing 4 games due to COVID-19 protocols.
Pack’s 26 points are the most by a K-State freshman since Marcus Foster scored 34 against Texas in 2014.
Pack’s eight 3-point field goals tied for the second-most in a game in school history and are the most-ever by a Wildcat freshman. His 8 triples are only surpassed by Askia Jones’ school-record 14 against Fresno State on March 24, 1994, while Steve Henson (vs. Iowa State on February 17, 1990) and Cortez Groves (vs. Texas A&M on March 23, 2000) also had 8 treys in a game.
In a tight game marked by 8 lead changes and 4 ties in the second half, it was the more experienced Texas A&M team that was able to pull out the victory. Down 58-55 after Pack’s only 2-point field goal with 1:47 to play, the Aggies outscored the Wildcats, 13-3, down the stretch, including 11 consecutive makes from the free throw line.
Texas A&M connected on just 40.8 percent (20-of-49) from the field, including 42.9 percent (6-of-14) from 3-point range, but outscored K-State, 22-5, from the free throw line. The Aggies hit on 84.6 percent (22-of-26) from the charity stripe, including 90 percent (18-of-20) in the second half.
Seniors Jay Jay Chandler and Savion Flagg led a quartet of Aggies in double figures with 14 points each, as Flagg came off the bench to hit on 5-of-7 field goals and a 4-of-4 effort from the free throw line to go with game-high 8 rebounds. Sophomores Emanuel Miller and Andre Gordon finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Texas A&M packed the lane, limiting K-State’s paint touches and hampering freshman big Davion Bradford, who entered the game shooting 61 percent from the field. The Wildcats were forced into taking 35 3-point field goals – the fourth-most attempts in a game in school history – making double-digit treys (10) for the first time in Big 12 play. However, Pack and senior Mike McGuirl (2) combined for all 10 triples on 21 attempts, while the rest of the team was a combined 0-of-14 from long range.
Pack was joined in double figures by McGuirl, who finished with 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting to go with a game-high 6 assists, 2 steals and 3 rebounds in 38 minutes of action. Bradford was solid despite being limited to just 3 shot attempts, finishing with 9 points on 3-of-3 field goals and 3-of-4 free throws and a team-high 7 rebounds, while sophomore reserve Antonio Gordon added 8 points and 5 rebounds.
The Wildcats were once again hit with the injury bug, as the team played most of the game without sophomore starter DaJuan Gordon, who went down with an injury less than 5 minutes into the first half.
K-State is now 3-5 all-time in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge series, including a 3-1 mark in home games. The Wildcats have now lost 3 consecutive games in the Challenge, including its first loss at home.