LAREDO, Texas – The Rattlers suffered their first Heartland Conference defeat of the season on this, Texas A&M’s first-ever “Homecoming” Thursday night.

Coming on strong down the stretch to erase a two-point deficit, the Dustdevils outlasted the Rattlers, 79-69, at the Kinesiology Building to hand St. Mary’s its first Heartland Conference defeat of the season.

St. Mary’s (11-7, 5-1 in Heartland Conference) took a 60-58 lead with 7:30 left, but was outscored 21-9 for the remainder of the game.

Josh Orta (So., San Antonio) led the way with 21 points, while Jeff Campbell (Jr., Allen, Texas) added 17 to go along with Kevin Kotzur’s double-double.

Kotzur (So., La Vernia, Texas), the reigning three-time Heartland Conference Player of the Week, had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

At the midway point of the conference schedule, the Rattlers are now tied atop the league standings with A&M International in the loss column.

Given what St. Mary’s had overcome early on against A&M International, it seemed like a late comeback wasn’t out of question – even as the deficit approached double figures.

The Rattlers trailed by 14 midway through the first half, but went on a 27-6 run to lead by seven late in the frame.

St. Mary’s led by as many as 11 in the second half, but the Dustdevils started to find their rhythm late. A&M International went on a 13-1 run, taking its first lead of the half on an Evan Matteson layup that put the Dustdevils up 56-54 with nearly 10 minutes left. The lead swelled to seven with three minutes left.

Still, a Rattler comeback seemed inevitable as they cut it to five on a Gordon Ward (Sr., Galveston, Texas) free throw with 56 ticks left. But instead, the Dustdevils denied the Rattlers’ gutsy effort.

The Rattlers return home on Saturday, when they host St. Thomas in a non-conference game at 4:30 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena.

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