TAMPA, Fla. (AP)Landon Taliaferro scored a career-high 34 points and Taj Benning made six free throws in the final 16 seconds Sunday to help Fairfield hold off Texas A&M 67-62 in the seventh-place game of the Orlando Invitational.
Taliaferro made 12 of 18 shots, including a school-record 10 3-pointers in 15 attempts for the Stags (2-6), who lost to Southern California and Davidson in their other two games in the eight-team tournament at Disney World.
The strong shooting performance came two days after Taliaferro went 0 of 9 from behind the 3-point line against Davidson.
”That’s what shooters do, they’ve got to have a short memory,” Fairfield coach Jay Young said. ”I told him that after he went 0-for-9. If you’re open, you’ve got to shoot. And if not, I’m taking you out of the game.”
Taliaferro said that wasn’t the only message from Young, who’s in his first season with the Stags.
”Coach came in (Saturday) and said, we’re not accepting leaving Florida without a win. So we just came together,” Taliaferro said. ”Everybody played their role to the best of their ability and we came out with a win. That’s what we thought the whole time, we never thought we were going to lose.”
Texas A&M (3-4) trimmed a 61-52 deficit to three with consecutive 3-pointers from Savion Flagg, but the Aggies guard missed a potential game-tying trey before Benning closed it out from the line for Fairfield.
Flagg finished with 17 points. Quenton Jackson had 15 and Wendell Mitchell added 14 for Texas A&M, which led 29-25 at halftime.
”Too often, (Fairfield) played offense through our turnovers,” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said. ”At times we did a good job on the perimeter against the first shot … then there were those back-breaking plays where they got the offensive rebound.”
Vincent Eze had 10 points and 13 rebounds for Fairfield. Benning missed 5 of 6 shots from the field before going 6 for 6 from the foul line in the closing seconds to finish with eight points.
Texas A&M: Despite going 0-3 with losses to Harvard, Temple and Fairfield, Williams feels the Aggies are making progress in their first season under him. The Aggies shot 44 percent, including 9 of 27 on 3-point attempts, on Sunday. That was up considerably from well below 30 percent in losses to Harvard and Temple.
”Regardless of who’s on the court, we need some level of consistency, rather than trying guys to see if they’re going to be consistent,” Williams said.
Fairfield: First win over a Power 5 Conference school under Young. As Stags prepare for Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play, they should benefit from the experience of facing USC, Davidson and Texas A&M.
Texas A&M: Plays Texas next Sunday in Lone Star Showdown in Fort Worth.
Fairfield: Return home to host William & Mary next Sunday.
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