Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Durant and Law put on another spectacular show

Texas 98, Texas A&M 96, 2OT

It's games like these that are making Bill Simmons a college hoop fan.

Big 12 Player of the Year Candidates Kevin Durant of Texas and Acie Law IV of A&M helped their teams stage a classic late-season conference battle last night in Austin, a perfect precursor to March Madness that was one of the best games of the season so far.

Freshman sensation and probable #1 draft pick Durant threw up another double-double, this time a monster 30-pt, 16-reb performance, nearly duplicating his ginourmous 37pt/23 reb game vs. Tex Tech, but it was barely enough to hold off the Aggies sensational point guard Law and his typical late-game heroics.

The 6'3" senior had already proven his worth as a money player with many clutch shots in the waning minutes of games, most memorably for Longhorns fans one year ago when his 3-pt dagger over Daniel Gibson at the buzzer gave the Aggies a 46-43 win. He also hit the winning shot in A&M's 69-66 victory at Kansas one month ago for the Aggies first win ever in Allen Fieldhouse, and nailed another game-tying 3 against Texas Tech, only to witness the Red Raiders' Jarrious Jackson get the last laugh with a length-of-the-court buzzer beater for the win.

In other words if it's crunch time, A&M coach Billy Gillespie has only one play designed: give the ball to Law.

Tonight he added to his resume with two more miraculous, game-salvaging salvos. After Durant hit a three with :20 left to give the 'Horns a 4-pt lead, 76-72, A&M matched with a three to pull within one. Texas freshman point guard DJ Augustin (25 pts) then hit two free throws to give Texas a 78-75 lead with :07 left in regulation, and everyone in the building knew who was going to get the ball. Law didn't disappoint. He took the inbounds and then curled to the right side of the court, loosely guarded by Durant despite Texas having a foul to give. He pulled up behind the arc, and by the time Durant reacted, Law's rainbow rafter-scraper was swooshing through the net, tying the game at 78 and "forcing" us to watch free basketball between these titans.

Once again in the first OT it appeared Texas was going to take control and win it, grabbing an 87-80 lead with 1:16 left to play. But the Aggies' Lithuanian sharpshooter Antanas Kavaliauskas nailed a clutch trey and Law followed with a layup off a steal to cut it to two, 87-85, and after Texas got one free throw to push it to 88-85, Law took over again. No sooner did ESPN's Fran Fraschilla say "you better get out the handcuffs for Law" he nailed another three to tie the game and send the burnt orange-clad crowd into a collective state of shock & awe. Double OT, baby!

In the second overtime, with everyone running on fumes, the teams exchanged leads before Texas grabbed another 3-point advantage on two free throws by Durant (he was 10-13 from the line, including 5-6 in the final 1:15 of the game). But with :05 left A&M once again had a chance to squeeze another extra five minute session out of this masterpiece. Law was fouled before he could launch another backbreaking trey and he made the first free throw; still needing a two to tie, Law quickly missed the second, grabbed the ball off the rebound and nearly got the ensuing shot to fall, yet it bounced off the rim as the game finally ended.

Law finished the game with 33 points on 10-23 shooting while logging 50 minutes of action, and solidified his draft stock by cementing his reputation as one of the best clutch shooters in the game. Durant's awesome evening was almost lost in the shadow of Law's heroics, but his versatility, maturity, and late-game poise showed why he is the leading candidate for the national Player of the Year.

Too bad he might not win the honor for the Big 12.

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