Carter, Texas A&M hold off UTEP in preseason NIT

COLLEGE STATION (AP) -- When Josh Carter got the ball and saw a pair of UTEP players down on the court, he figured it was as good a time as any to take his shot.

He did and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer, the last of his 23 points, as No. 15 Texas A&M held off a plucky UTEP team for an 81-76 win Wednesday night in the preseason NIT.

"I looked back and saw people on the ground and was pretty wide open so I just took the shot," Carter said.

Carter's 3-pointer with 2:15 left put A&M ahead 71-68. Stefon Jackson got tangled up with a teammate and the two fell before Carter's shot.

"I got back up, but by that time it was too late," Jackson said. "He had already got the shot up."

Coach Mark Turgeon was impressed with Carter's performance.

"I know the kid tripped, but that was a heck of a shot Josh made," he said. "He had to have the guts to take it."

UTEP got a pair of free throws from Marvin Kilgore before Derrick Roland's layup made it 73-70.

Bryan Davis got a steal to set up Dominique Kirk's jumper to push A&M's lead to 75-70 with 50 seconds left. Roland forced a UTEP turnover on the next possession and hit a free throw and Donald Sloan added a free throw to make it 77-70.

Just like they had all night, the Miners didn't give up and Stefon Jackson's 3 with 13 seconds remaining cut the lead to 77-73. Kirk made two free throws before Randy Culpepper's 3 with five seconds left made it 79-76.

The Miners were finally put away for good with a dunk by Joseph Jones with a second left. Jones had 15 points and Kirk had 14.

"We broke down defensively and compromised our defense," UTEP coach Tony Barbee said. "This is a tough, tested team. They made the plays down the stretch and we didn't."

Two baskets in a row by Jackson had pushed UTEP's lead to 66-62 before Davis and Carter hit consecutive shots to tie it with about five minutes left.

A 3-pointer by Roland followed by a long 2 by Jones put the Aggies ahead 59-58 with 8:31 remaining. It was the first time Texas A&M (3-0) had led since it was up 29-28 with six minutes left in the first half.

The Miners (2-1) were led by Jackson who had 27 points.

Carter cut UTEP's lead to 54-50 on a 3-pointer with about 13 minutes to go. Freshman DeAndre Jordan got A&M the ball back when he swatted Jackson's shot away. Jordan was fouled by Jeremy Sampson and drew a technical for arguing the call.

Carter, who hit four 3s, made one of the free throws on the technical and Jordan added a free throw to make it 54-52 with about 11 minutes left.

UTEP led by 10 when the Aggies scored six straight points, sparked by a 3 by Carter to make it 46-42 three minutes into the second half. The Miners answered by going on a 5-0 run to push the lead back to 10 about three minutes later.

The Miners made eight 3-pointers in the first half and that hot shooting gave them a 42-34 halftime lead. Texas A&M overcame a 10-point deficit to take a 29-28 lead with about six minutes left in the first half. A quick 3 by Culpepper put UTEP back on top and they led the rest of the half. Culpepper finished with 16 points and Kilgore added 14.

"I was proud of my guys," Barbee said. "But where I think we're at as a program and where we're headed, there's no such thing as a moral victory. I expected to win this game."

The Aggies made just 10 field goals and missed seven free throws in the first half.

Turgeon said it was good for his team to be challenged like this.

"We needed a game like that," Turgeon said. "We talked at halftime about having to prove ourselves every year. Our guys did a good job of coming together and getting it done tonight."

This was the first meeting between these teams since UTEP won 60-40 in El Paso in 1981.

The Aggies move on to the NIT semifinals next week at Madison Square Garden with the win.