March Madness: Houston survives Texas A&M rally, buzzer-beater to advance past Aggies in OT thriller

Jamal Shead and the Cougars pulled out a in in overtime after blowing a double-digit lead in the final minutes of regulation. (Petre Thomas/Reuters)

Houston appeared to have Sunday's win over Texas A&M in the bag in regulation.

Instead, the top-seeded Cougars found themselves in a fight down the stretch that threatened their NCAA tournament lives.

No. 9 seed Texas A&M rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final two minutes to force overtime in the second-round NCAA tournament game. But Houston survived in a 100-95 thriller to advance to a Sweet 16 showdown with Duke.

Houston blows big lead, hangs on to win

Houston led, 82-71 with 1:48 remaining. But the Aggies rallied and cut the lead to 86-83 with 45 seconds left. They then had two looks at game-tying 3-pointers in the game's final 10 seconds. Wade Taylor IV missed both.

But officials whistled a jump ball with 1.2 seconds remaining on the rebound, ensuring possession for Texas A&M. This time, the Aggies didn't miss. Andersson Garcia caught an inbounds pass off the bounce then connected on a 3-pointer to tie the game at the buzzer.

Houston looked in bad shape heading into overtime. Starters Ja'Vier Francis and L.J. Cryer watched on the bench after both fouled out in regulation. Jamal Shead and Emanuel Sharp joined them on the bench after fouling out in the extra session. But before he fouled out, Shead scored five points in overtime and assisted on a Sharp 3-pointer that got the scoring started.

Senior walk-on ices game after starters foul out

The Cougars never trailed in overtime after Sharp's 3 gave them an 89-86 lead. They extended the lead to 93-87, but still faced another tense moment in the game's final seconds.

The absence of four fouled-out starters forced little-used senior walk-on Ryan Elvin to the free-throw line with a trip to the Sweet 16 at stake.

Elvin, who's averaged 0.9 points in 2.9 minutes per game this season, found himself at the stripe for two free throws with Houston leading 98-95. A made free throw would push Houston's lead to two possessions with 17 seconds remaining. He missed the first. He then sank the second to raise his career free-throw tally to 8 for 11. He also iced the game for the Cougars.

When the final buzzer sounded after a furious final few minutes, it spelled relief for the top-seeded Cougars. For Texas A&M, it meant heartbreak.

The emotion was palpable in the Houston tunnel after the game.

Aggies challenge Houston's vaunted defense

The score amounted to a shootout for Houston, which is used to locking down opponents. Houston entered Sunday's game allowing opponents an NCAA-low 57 points per game and 37.8% field-goal percentage. It ranked first in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency and held 10 opponents this season to fewer than 50 points en route to a No. 1 seed.

Texas A&M outplayed all those measures Sunday and kept pressure on Houston until the final buzzer. Ultimately, it wasn't enough.

Houston's offense had few problems as the Cougars shot 51.5% from the field and saw three players score 20 points or more. Shead, Houston's presumptive All-America point guard, orchestrated the effort. He finished the game with 21 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.

Sharp posted a game-high 30 points while shooting 7 of 14 from the field. Cryer added 20 points, four assists and three rebounds. All watched the tense final seconds from the bench after fouling out.

Senior guard Tyrece Radford led the Aggie effort with 27 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. Taylor posted 21 points while struggling mightily from the floor. The Aggies' leading scorer on the season (19 points per game) shot 5 of 26 from the field and 3 of 13 from 3-point distance on Sunday.

Texas A&M's season comes to an end while Houston's extends to a nearby NCAA regional in Dallas.