Washington State falls to Texas A&M, 55-54

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Elston Turner was determined to take the final shot.

Didn't matter that he'd hit one of his first 12, or that Washington State was switching its defenders in the frantic final seconds to prevent Texas A&M's top player from deciding the game.

So when he had enough room to let loose a 3-pointer, Turner popped it from the top of the key, and it ripped through the net with 2 seconds remaining in the game, giving the Aggies a 55-54 victory over the Cougars in Tuesday night's consolation game of the CBE Classic.

"I just kind of waved everybody off," Turner said. "I didn't want to go overtime. I wanted to win the game. It was really a team win, though."

D.J. Shelton had a chance to ensure at least overtime for the Cougars when he went to the foul line with 17.5 seconds remaining. Shelton managed to make the first free throw but missed the second, leaving his team clinging to a two-point lead as the Aggies (4-1) raced up court.

J'Mychal Reese got the ball in the hands of Turner, the Aggies' best player, and he cleared out the right side of the lane as if he was planning to drive for a tying basket.

Instead, he launched the deciding 3-pointer.

"The shot was amazing," said Ray Turner, who led the Aggies with 14 points. "That's Elston he needs to shoot that, especially when he's got a mismatch."

The Cougars' Royce Woolridge could only get off a half-court heave that fell short, and the Aggies stormed the court to celebrate one night after getting trounced by Saint Louis.

Dexter Kernich-Drew had a career-high 16 points for the Cougars (2-3), who were blown out by No. 12 Kansas the previous night. Brock Motum added 15 points and five rebounds.

"Tough loss. Tough loss for us," Cougars coach Ken Bone said. "Our guys battled really hard, left it on the court, and we appreciate that, how hard we worked, after coming back to the arena 20 hours after getting crushed by Kansas. I thought our kids showed a lot of character."

The first half was an exercise in frustration on the part of both teams.

Texas A&M missed every 3-pointer it attempted, Washington State made only one of them, and they combined for 11 turnovers against just six assists.

Little wonder that the Cougars only managed to pry open a 21-16 lead by the time the halftime buzzer sounded, and it was even less surprising that the roughly 1,200 fans on hand for the tipoff did more cheering for the third- and fourth-grade girls who played during the break.

"It wasn't pretty," Bone conceded.

Things began to heat up early in the second half, and it was the Aggies striking first.

They were trailing 26-22 when Elston Turner picked the pocket of the Cougars' Mike Ladd, and Ladd grabbed him from behind for an intentional foul. Turner made both foul shots, and then Ray Turner was fouled while scoring off a nice feed from Elston Turner. He also made the free throw to finish off a five-point trip down floor and give Texas A&M a 27-26 lead.

They finished off a 15-5 run when Elston Turner found Ray Turner under the basket.

"When we went into halftime, I thought we were playing tentative," Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. "That was where we won the game, the first five minutes of the second half."

Kernich-Drew put an end to the surge when he scored with 15:02 left in the game, the first of 12 points he'd score over the next 10 minutes. The sophomore from Melbourne, Australia, added a 3-pointer on the Cougars' next trip, and another 3-pointer with 8:13 left for a 44-38 lead.

"Without Dex hitting some of those 3s," Bone said, "we're probably not in the game that last minute or two."

Reese started to heat up for Texas A&M, which at that point was 1 of 9 from beyond the arc, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in a span of three possessions. Ray Turner then converted a couple of foul shots with 2:34 left, making it 51-50 in favor of the Aggies.

It remained close until the final seconds, when Elston Turner hit the shot of the night.

"Obviously we were very fortunate we made a shot. Both teams were struggling offensively," Kennedy said. "It was a great team win."