COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Cuonzo Martin normally has something to say.
He normally shares a postgame thought.
He normally gathers his Tennessee men’s basketball team for a parting dispatch.
Saturday wasn’t normal.
Four overtimes. Three halves. Sixty minutes.
Tennessee 93, Texas A&M 85.
“Nothing needed to be said,” Martin explained, recounting the scenes from a Reed Arena postgame locker room that turned into a good ol’ fashion Texas hoedown.
“They were dancing, jumping around, blasting music,” Martin continued. “It was a good time.”
Tennessee point guard Trae Golden made sure of it. Nearly matching Texas A&M guard Elston Turner’s 38-point one-man show, the UT point guard netted 32.
But it was Golden who finally said enough is enough.
“Before the last OT I told him, ‘Let’s go. You gotta go, man. Demand the ball. Get the ball,’ ” said Martin.
Told to go, Golden went off. He ended the day’s novel with two game-changing mid-range jumpers in the final overtime session. The first, coming off his own offensive rebound with 2 minutes, 46 second left, gave Tennessee an 83-80 lead. The next, one possession later, pushed it to a five-point lead.
Following a pin-to-the-backboard blocked shot by Jarnell Stokes — who, by the way, notched his 12th double-double of the year, scoring 20 points to go with 16 rebounds, eight offensive — McBee tied a ribbon on the Vols’ fifth straight win.
His 3-pointer with 1:13 left gave UT an
88-80 lead. It being past dinnertime, fans filled the exits.
“It felt good,” McBee said. “I saw it go in and knew it was over with.”
The Vols (16-10, 8-6 SEC) outscored A&M 14-6 to draw the curtain on the fourth overtime.
“You’ve got to have heart,” Golden said. “We came too far. We came all the way to Texas. We’re not trying to go all the way back to Tennessee with no loss. We’ve got NCAA dreams.”
Turner did all he could to make the trip miserable. Lighting up every defender in sight, he made 11 of his first 14 shots. Thanks to his 12 first-half points, the Aggies (16-11, 6-8) built a 31-28 halftime lead.
But like he challenged Golden, Martin challenged McBee. Richardson proved he couldn’t contain Turner early, forcing the UT coach to switch things up.
McBee slid over in front of Turner for portions of the second half and the first two overtimes. Then Martin reassigned Richardson.
Turner missed 14 of his last 19 shots.
“If you shut him down, then you shut them down,” McBee said. “Luckily we got the stops when we needed them.”
The late-game lowlights and highlights were aplenty.
The theatrics began at the end of regulation:
Facing a 62-61 deficit, Stokes took two free throws with 5.9 seconds left. He had to make one. Two would have been nice.
He made one.
McRae buried an easily forgotten 3-pointer to force a 69-69 tie with nine seconds to go in the first overtime.
Golden knotted the second overtime, 75-75, on a jumper with 18 ticks remaining.
Capping Tennessee’s first third overtime since 1979, a late rebound and put-back by Aggies forward Jarod Jahns set the stage for UT’s first fourth overtime ever. With fatigue mounting, only eight points total were scored in the third extra period.
Golden, upon Martin’s charge, took care of the fourth.
“It was Trae’s turn,” McBee said. “Jordie just had 34 (against LSU) the other night (Tuesday). Trae stepped up this time.”
For long swaths of the game, the Vols piled up stale offensive sets. One-on-one individual play and one-, two-pass possessions drew Martin’s scowl.
“(A&M) is a grimy, physical defensive team,” he said afterward. “You can’t do that. You’ll make it a long night.”
No pun intended.
The game unofficially took a hair under three hours. Nine players logged more than 40 minutes with Golden (56), McRae (56) and Stokes (53) all playing over 50. One-hundred and forty-nine shots were fired. Fifty-four fouls were called.
There were 11 lead changes. There were 10 ties.
Yes, a long night, indeed.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn.