KINGSVILLE, Texas – This wasn’t how the Rattlers drew it up, but they’ll gladly take it.
Erasing a one-time 23-point deficit, St. Mary’s capped off a wild, 77-76 victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville with a game-winning putback from Kevin Kotzur with five seconds remaining Monday night.
Kotzur (R-Jr., La Vernia, Texas), who had his third-straight double-double with 29 points and 12 rebounds, was sent to the free-throw line with 12 seconds left and a chance to tie the game at 76-76.
After making his first foul shot, Kotzur missed the second and, following a missed putback from teammate Ray Marshall, Kotzur rebounded the second miss and put in the game-winner on the heels of being named the Heartland Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week earlier Monday afternoon.
The Javelinas got off an errant, desperation 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Helping spur the comeback was a crucial Javelinas mistake, as they called for a timeout they did not have with 56 seconds left that sent Lamb Autrey (Sr., Cibolo, Texas) to the foul stripe. Autrey hit the first of the two shots, cutting the deficit to 76-74.
Guard Daryell Taylor (Jr., Houston) poured in 16 points for the Rattlers (3-1) on 4-of-12 shooting from 3-point range, while point guard Lamb Autrey added 14 points and four assists.
St. Mary’s trailed by as many as 23 points, including carrying a 52-34 deficit into the break. But the Rattlers would not go away, cutting a 57-34 gap to 65-60 with nearly 10 minutes left, only to see the deficit swell back to 10 with 9:47 left.
But St. Mary’s came back again, twice slicing the gap to two over the final five minutes before eventually breaking through for the win.
Besides the final score, the only other time St. Mary’s led was 2-0 and 5-3 in the opening minutes.
Kotzur connected on 12 of 16 shots, continuing an individual stretch of excellence that began last week when he made 21 of 24 shots and averaged 24.5 points and 9.5 rebounds over two games.
The surging Rattlers will be back in action Thursday, when they host Dallas Christian College at 7:30 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena.