BYU starts slow, again drops tourney opener

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Texas A&M forward Josh Carter has had an up-and-down season.

Against Brigham Young, he was up.

Carter had 26 points, matching his career high, as the Aggies beat Brigham Young 67-62 in the NCAA Tournament West Regional on Thursday, handing the Cougars their sixth straight first-round loss.

Carter had made three 3-pointers in his past three games, shooting 3-for-15 from beyond the arc. He hit that many in the early minutes, leading A&M 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 shot 10-for-16 from the field and 6-for-10 on 3-pointers against BYU. “It was good to be able to get off to a good start.”

The Aggies (25-10) frittered away their big early lead, and they were tied at 29 at intermission. But ninth-seeded A&M proved tougher down the stretch, holding off the eighth-seeded Cougars.

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.”

BYU (27-8) didn’t go quietly. After erasing the early deficit, the Mountain West Conference regular-season champion nearly climbed out of a six-point hole in the final minute. Jimmer Fredette’s 3-pointer with 59 seconds to go cut the Aggies’ lead to 63-60.

But Dominique Kirk answered with a 3-pointer, and Joseph Jones made a free throw to put the game away. Jones finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

“It could have gone either way,” said BYU forward Jonathan Tavernari, a Bishop Gorman High School product who led the Cougars with 15 points. “We were just a couple plays short.”

The Aggies advanced to face UCLA on Saturday.

Texas A&M 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. The Aggies don’t have an illustrious tourney history — they have a total of seven victories in nine trips — but they are 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.”

BYU coach Dave Rose said, “We were slow, but (Carter) was quick to start the game.”

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