COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Tennessee’s Trae Golden watched Notre Dame’s five-overtime victory against Louisville earlier this month and thought there was no way he’d ever be involved in a game like that.
Boy, was the star point guard wrong.
Golden scored a career-high 32 points to lead Tennessee to its fifth straight win, a 93-85 victory over Texas A&M on Saturday in a marathon four-overtime game.
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“To come out here and play something like that is crazy,” Golden said. “It got to a point in the second or third overtime where I was asking guys: `What number of overtime is this?’ It was crazy, but just something we had to push through.”
The Volunteers were up by one point in the fourth overtime when Golden scored four straight points to make it 85-80.
“It was huge for us,” Golden said of finally pulling away. “My teammates were telling me to take the game over and finish it. I was just trying to do that. Get us a win and get us back to Knoxville.”
Elston Turner missed a shot for A&M before Skylar McBee’s 3-pointer pushed Tennessee’s lead to 88-80. McBee made a pair of free throws with less than a minute left to pad the lead, and the Volunteers held on for the win.
It was the first four-overtime game for Tennessee (16-10, 8-6 Southeastern Conference), and the most extra periods the Aggies (16-11, 6-8) have played since dropping a 116-110 five-overtime game to Baylor on Jan. 23, 2008.
The most overtimes the Volunteers had played before Saturday was three, which happened three times with the last one coming in a win over Alabama on Dec. 12, 1979.
Tennessee has won five straight conference games for the first time since winning eight in a row in 2008.
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin was impressed with the conditioning of his team, especially Golden, who played 56 minutes. He said Golden’s conditioning has improved this season and that there was “no way” he would have been able to play that long last year.
He seemed to get stronger as the game progressed, and scored 15 points in the overtimes.
“We just found a way to get stops and make big plays,” Martin said. “I didn’t see any signs of fatigue or giving up in our guys.”
Turner had 38 points to lead the Aggies.
“It was a fun, entertaining game,” Turner said. “I’ve never been a part of anything like it. We definitely needed to make some extra shots to win it.”
Jordan McRae added 23 points for Tennessee, and Jarnell Stokes had 20 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
The Volunteers didn’t score for the first 5 minutes of the game, and had to play from behind most of the game.
“I feel like everyone played their hardest,” Stokes said. “We started the game off sluggish, and to end up winning after that shows our resilience.”
Stokes blocked a layup by Jarod Jahns and was fouled on the rebound, but he missed both free throws with 40 seconds left in the third overtime to leave Tennessee up 79-77. Jahns made a layup to tie it with 9 seconds left, and J’Mychal Reese stole the ball from Golden to send it to the fourth overtime.
Turner scored the first four points of the second overtime, before a 3-pointer by Golden. The teams exchanged baskets before a jump shot by Golden tied it at 75. Just as in regulation and the first overtime, Texas A&M had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but the Aggies couldn’t make the shot.
In the first overtime, Ray Turner grabbed a steal on a pass by McRae with 25 seconds left and Tennessee immediately fouled Fabyon Harris.
He sank both free throws to make it 68-64 before Golden cut the lead to two points on a layup with 19 seconds left.
Tennessee fouled Reese 3 seconds later, and he made one of the free throws.
McRae tied it at 69 on a 3-pointer with 9 seconds left in overtime.
Josh Richardson blocked a layup by Harris with 2 seconds left. The Aggies got the rebound, but Elston Turner’s jump shot bounced off the rim at the buzzer to force the second overtime.
At the end of regulation, McRae missed a 3-pointer for the Volunteers, but Stokes grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 5.9 seconds left. He made the first free throw, but missed the second one to tie it at 62.
A 3-pointer by Reese clanged off the rim at the buzzer to send it to overtime.
“I’m proud of the way we fought,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “I’m disappointed about some shots we didn’t finish around the basket. You’ve got to make those shots against Tennessee as well as they’re playing right now.”
The Volunteers were up by three when Texas A&M used a 10-2 spurt to take a 50-45 lead with about 8 minutes left. Turner led the Aggies in that run with six points and a steal.
It was the sixth overall meeting between these new SEC opponents, and the first since a 108-84 win by the Volunteers on Dec. 2, 2003.
Harris returned after missing Wednesday’s game with a sprained ankle to score 13 points, and Reese added 15 for A&M.