San Antonio – Off balance and fading back toward the sideline, St. Mary’s Daryell Taylor knew there was no escaping the reality of the moment as he released the ball from the wing with time winding down in Monday’s overtime.
“There’s two options,” the junior guard from Houston recalled thinking. “I make it, we win. I miss it, we take a loss at home.”
But there was no way he was missing. Not this shot.
Taylor’s go-ahead bucket with 2.3 seconds was the difference in a wild, 70-67 non-conference victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville at Bill Greehey Arena, a game in which the Rattlers trailed by nine with just over a minute left in regulation.
Taylor’s money ball came after a stretch to end regulation in which the Rattlers (12-5 overall) made four consecutive 3-pointers over the final 1:30, three of which came with St. Mary’s down nine in the final 1:15.
Senior point guard Lamb Autrey of Cibolo, Texas connected from long range with just under eight seconds remaining to send the game to overtime at 59-59, as Texas A&M-Kingsville couldn’t connect at the buzzer.
Taylor led the Rattlers with 19 points, while Moses Sundufu (Jr., Hopkins, Minn.) added 18. Brad Hubenak (Jr., Kennedale, Texas) netted 10 off the bench, while Kevin Kotzur (Jr., La Vernia, Texas) had a double-double with 10 points and 13 boards.
Despite the losing effort, Kingsville’s Robert Williams led all scorers with 35 points and 10 rebounds in a remarkable performance.
In some ways, the Rattlers might have stunned themselves as much as anyone with the late showing. Having struggled all night offensively, shooting under 40 percent from the floor for the duration of the game, St. Mary’s dug deep to fight back from a 10-point deficit with just under two minutes remaining to give itself a chance.
Few shots illustrated as much Autrey’s clutch shot to end regulation – a shot that marked his only points of the night.
“Coming into the last shot of regulation, I was frustrated with myself,” Autrey said. “But being a senior leader, I knew I couldn’t let that stay with me. I had faith in myself.”
He had faith in his teammates, too.
Autrey’s shot followed a Taylor 3-pointer with 1:30 that ate into a 57-47 deficit, a Sundufu trey with 1:12 left that made the score 59-53, and another Sundufu triple with 34 seconds left that brought the Rattlers’ deficit to 59-56.
To put it in other terms, five of St. Mary’s seven 3-pointers came in the final 1:30 of regulation or overtime.
St. Mary’s would go on to lead by four midway through overtime, but a Texas A&M-Kingsville 3-pointer and foul shot on the following possession left the Rattlers trailing 67-65 with 19 ticks left.
But the Javelinas couldn’t connect on the backend of a pair of free throws, opening the door for the Rattlers to win on a 3-pointer. And they did.
Texas A&M-Kingsville turned the ball over on the ensuing in-bounds pass, and a pair of D.J. Castro (Jr., El Paso, Texas) free throws iced the game as a full-court attempt from Texas A&M-Kingsville narrowly missed with 0.8 seconds left.
“Before my shot,” Autrey said of his tying connection at the end of regulation, “I told D.T. (Taylor) that I had faith in him to make it.”
Not too long thereafter, Taylor showed why.