No. 15 Texas 98, No. 7 Texas A&M 96, 2OT

Thursday, March 1st 2007, 6:19 am
By: News On 6

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ A sign crowned him ``King Durant'' and the crowd was chanting ``Three More Years.''

Texas fans knew they just might be watching freshman Kevin Durant's last home game for the No. 15 Longhorns.

And boy, it was a doozy.

Durant had 30 points and 16 rebounds to lead Texas to a wild 98-96 double-overtime victory over No. 7 Texas A&M that will be remembered as much for how the Aggies and Acie Law nearly spoiled the party.

Every time the Longhorns (22-7, 12-3) seemed to have put the Aggies away, Law came up the with big shots to keep A&M alive _ until he finally couldn't muster another.

Law finished with 33 points, hitting 3-pointers that forced both overtimes. With both game-tying shots, he posed and pointed at a loud group of Aggies fans in the upper deck of the arena.

But eventually the shots ran out and Durant and the Longhorns got the win that sends them into Saturday's regular-season finale at No. 3 Kansas with a chance to earn a share of the Big 12 title.

The back-and-forth between Durant and Law will only fuel debate over which player should earn Big 12 player of the year honors. Should it be the precocious freshman who took the league by storm or the flashy senior who has led the Aggies to their best season in a generation?

``If you really look at the value of those two guys, both teams would be very different without them,'' Texas coach Rick Barnes said. ``When we recruited Kevin Durant, we knew how good he was and told him, `Our expectation for you is to be the best player in college basketball.' ``

In the only other Top 25 games, it was No. 24 Maryland 85, No. Duke 77; and No. 19 Vanderbilt 99, South Carolina 90 in OT.

Three conference tournaments also began Wednesday.

In the Patriot League, it was Holy Cross 83, Lafayette 53; Bucknell 62, Navy 42; Army 47, Lehigh 46; and American 59, Colgate 44.

In the Southern Conference, Chattanooga beat Wofford 64-55; Western Carolina edged Elon 69-66; and Georgia Southern defeated The Citadel 62-46.

In the Sun Belt Conference it was Florida Atlantic 91, Florida International 88, OT; Louisiana-Monroe 83, Denver 67; North Texas 93, Louisiana-Lafayette 78; New Orleans 77, Arkansas-Little Rock 70; and Middle Tennessee 72, Troy 64.

A boisterous sellout crowd came to watch what most assumed was Durant's last home game at Texas. Many expect he'll leave college for the NBA this year, although he hasn't publicly stated that.

Texas thought it had the game won when Durant hit a long 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in regulation for a four-point lead.

Law forced the first overtime when he got the ball deep in the right corner and put up a high shot over the 6-foot-9 Durant. It seemed to take forever to drop in with 1.1 seconds left.

``I tried to put as much arc on it as I could,'' Law said. ``I was just lucky.''

Texas led by as much as seven in the first overtime. Law tied it again with 26 seconds left, 88-88.

It looked like Law would do it again when he drove to the basket for a tying layup at the end of the second overtime, but his shot was blocked by Damion James with 15 seconds left.

Durant hit three of four free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.

Law, who finished with 33 points for A&M (24-5, 12-3) got to the free throw line with the Aggies down by three with 1.4 seconds left. He made the first to pull them within two, but was forced to miss the second to give his team a chance to grab the rebound. Chinemelu Elonu got the ball, but his final putback was off the mark.

D.J. Augustin added 25 points for the Longhorns. James scored 22 and had two key blocks late.

``He just takes over games at the end,'' Durant said of Law. ``He's a great player. Me and Acie are real good friends. It was fun going back and forth.''

Texas opened the second overtime with a 3-pointer by A.J. Abrams, who followed it with a floater in the lane. A&M tied it on Antanas Kavaliauskas' 3-pointer before Durant got to the line to finish it off.

As for player of the year honors, Law told Durant who he would vote for.

``I told him if I had a vote, it would be for him,'' Law said. ``We'll leave that to the voters. Player of the year in this conference is a big deal.''

No. 24 Maryland 85, No. 14 Duke 77

At Durham, N.C., Mike Jones scored 25 points and D.J. Strawberry had a pair of baskets during the decisive second-half spurt to lead Maryland past Duke.

Strawberry finished with 17 points for the Terrapins (23-7, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won six straight games _ all in the conference _ to firm up what looked to be a shaky NCAA tournament resume only a few weeks ago.

Ekene Ibekwe also scored 17 points, while freshman Greivis Vasquez added 13 points and 12 assists to help Maryland sweep the season series with the Blue Devils for the second time in three years.

Greg Paulus scored 20 points to lead Duke (22-8, 8-7), which rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit to tie it, but couldn't push ahead.

No. 19 Vanderbilt 99, South Carolina 90, OT

At Columbia, S.C., Shan Foster scored a career-high 33, Derrick Byars added eight of his 18 points in overtime and Vanderbilt surrendered a 17-point second-half lead before rallying to beat South Carolina.

Byars, the team's leading scorer, was held to 10 points _ six fewer than his average _ during regulation. But he made two consecutive 3-pointers to start the extra session and give the Commodores (20-9, 10-5 Southeastern Conference) an 87-82 lead.

The Gamecocks (14-14, 4-11) couldn't get closer than four points the rest of the way.