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OKLAHOMA CITY--The chant started quietly with about two minutes remaining in Texas A&M's dismantling of Green Bay on Friday night.
We want Dobbins! We want Dobbins!
It didn't take long for the words to pour down from all sides of Chesapeake Energy Arena, as giddy Aggie fans relished in the final moments of A&M's emphatic, 92-65 victory. Coach Billy Kennedy didn't disappoint the largely pro-Aggie crowd, sending in career reserve Kyle Dobbins to a thunderous roar with 1:24 remaining.
The 6-foot, 175-pound Dobbins sprinted onto the court and brought his teammates to their feet when he connected on a nice jump shot in the final seconds. It was that kind of night for Texas A&M, which posted its first NCAA Tournament win since 2010 by whipping the Phoenix.
A&M's 92 points were its most ever in NCAA play, and the 27 point margin of victory was also the best mark in school history. The 3rd-seeded Aggies will play Sunday evening against either Texas or Northern Iowa with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.
"We have a good team, and we expected to come here and win games," Kennedy said. "We were fortunate we played a Wisconsin-Green Bay team that likes to get up and down the floor a little bit, and we were able to exploit some opportunities to break the game open."
The Aggies (27-8) continue to have the look of a team that isn't just happy to be a participant in March Madness. Instead, this team appears locked in on a much larger goal.
When Green Bay frustrated the Aggies into a 22-14 deficit after nine turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game, Kennedy's club didn't panic. Instead, it stayed the course and forced the ball inside to Tyler Davis. In a tournament that is all about matchups, the biggest mismatch of the night was in the paint where Davis outmuscled Green Bay's undersized frontcourt. He connected on three out of four free throws and scored on a layup to pull A&M to within one.
From that point on, it was all A&M.
Photos by Thomas Campbell, courtesy Texas A&M Athletics.
"The emotions were running (early in the game), especially mine," said Davis. "But I have Danuel and Tonny (Trocha-Morelos) and a lot of the older guys telling me to stay poised and keep my head. We just had to slow the game down a little bit, and we did a good job of that."
Once the Aggies began to dictate the tempo of the game, Green Bay (23-13) had no answer. Senior Danuel tied the game at 28-28 with an old-fashioned three-point play. Then, Alex Caruso made a nice alley-oop pass to Trocha-Morelos for a slam. A&M closed the half on a 13-5 run and never looked back.
House was brilliant, finishing with 20 points. In all, five Aggies scored in double figures. Trocha-Morelos continued his impressive postseason with 15 points and four assists. Davis added 12, while Jalen Jones and Admon Gilder each finished with 11.
The Aggies shot a healthy 56.1 percent from the field, their second-best mark of the season. They also dominated the paint, piling up a 45-25 advantage in rebounds. A&M's 12 offensive rebounds led to 15 second chance points and helped take the sting out of the a near-season high 20 turnovers.
A&M fans should be pleased with the team's postgame poise, too. Reporters tried to nab a juicy sound byte by asking Aggie players what they thought about a potential game against Texas in the Round of 32.
House shot the inquiry down quickly. Davis was slightly more diplomatic.
"Whoever we end up playing, we'll be well prepared for it," Davis said.
With a team that has now won seven of its last eight, Davis' maturity was music to Kennedy's ears.
"Our mentality, our mantra is pretty much the same," Kennedy said. "Just stay the course. One day at a time. It's pretty boring. Just saw some wood, and let's move on."
It's a real pleasure for us to do this, because I think back about all the support Aggies have given me. No one accomplishes everything in life by themselves, and A&M and the Aggie network have definitely been there for me throughout my life."