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March 20, 2008ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Texas A&M forward Josh Carter has had an up-and-down season.
He was up against Brigham Young.
Carter scored 26 points, matching his career high, as the Aggies defeated Brigham Young 67-62 in the West Region's first round on Thursday, handing the Cougars their sixth straight opening-round loss.
Carter had made three 3-pointers in his past three games, hitting 3 of 15 shots from beyond the arc. He nailed that many in the opening minutes, leading the Aggies to an 11-0 lead.
"My teammates have been telling me all week just to keep shooting [and] it was going to fall for me," said Carter, who went 10-for-16 from the field and 6-for-10 from beyond the arc. "It was good to be able to get off to a good start."
The Aggies frittered away their big early lead, and they were tied at 29-29 at intermission. But ninth-seeded Texas A&M proved tougher down the stretch, holding off the No. 8-seeded Cougars in the final minutes.
The Aggies played two days after attending the funeral for guard Donald Sloan's mother, Sandra Sloan. Sloan, a sophomore from Dallas, started and scored eight points with six assists and five rebounds.
"I think we pride ourselves on toughness and being poised," Carter said. "We were able to just fight through it and not get down on ourselves, like we would have in the past, and we just come together as a team."
BYU didn't go quietly. After erasing the early 11-0 deficit, they nearly climbed out of a six-point hole in the final minute. Jimmer Fredette's 3-pointer with 59 seconds to play sliced the Aggies' lead to 63-60.
But Dominique Kirk answered with a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left, and Joseph Jones hit a free throw 11 seconds later to put the game away. Jones finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
"It could have gone either way," said BYU forward Jonathan Tavernari, who led the Cougars with 15 points. "We were just a couple plays short this game."
The Aggies (25-10) advanced to face top-seeded UCLA, which beat Mississippi Valley State 70-29, on Saturday.
The Aggies entered the tournament hoping to build on last year's run to the round of 16, which ended with a one-point loss to Memphis. Texas A&M doesn't have an illustrious tourney history -- the Aggies have a total of seven victories in nine trips -- but it is no longer content to draw a bid.
"It feels good to have a good performance, but we didn't come here to just win one game," Carter said. "We just want to keep it rolling."
Carter took advantage of the Cougars' strategy of double-teaming A&M's big men and daring the Aggies to beat them from afar. It was a smart approach to a team that shoots 35.8 percent from beyond the arc.
"We were slow, but he was quick to start the game," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "When he hit that first one, you knew it was going to be a big challenge."
The Cougars finished 27-8 but head back to Provo with an empty feeling. They haven't won an NCAA tournament game since 1993, when they beat No. 10-seeded Southern Methodist in the first round.
"It's back to the drawing board," said BYU's Lee Cummard, who had 14 points. "We've got to compete with a little more sense of urgency to start the game. Credit to Texas A&M."
BYU set a school record with 278 3-pointers this year. But the Cougars made only 7-for-22 (31.8 percent) from beyond the arc while Texas A&M hit 8-for-16 (50 percent).
"I thought that tonight, most of the time when we came off screens to get a shot, there was somebody right there," Rose said.
The Cougars missed their first eight shots and didn't score until Cummard slammed home a missed shot with 13:55 to play in the first half. Twelve minutes into the game, the Cougars had more turnovers (four) than buckets (three).
It looked like a rout was in the making, but then BYU's shooters began finding their range. Trailing 24-16 with 4:31 to go in the first half, BYU went on a 13-2 run capped by 3-pointers by Tavernari and Fredette, and the teams were tied at 29-29 at halftime.
Asked to explain the bad start, BYU guard Sam Burgess said, "Jitters from it being the beginning of the tournament and being on the big stage is the only thing I can think of to explain it, but give credit to us for batting back and getting into the game."