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Carter leads Texas A&M past BYU

Mar 21, 2008 - 4:05 AM ANAHEIM, California (Ticker) -- In his biggest game of the season, Josh Carter turned in the finest performance of his career.

Carter matched a career high with 26 points to lead ninth-seeded Texas A&M to a 67-62 victory over eighth-seeded Brigham Young in a West Regional matchup on Thursday.

Carter kept his team afloat with 17 points in the opening half and was electric from the arc, burying 6-of-10 3-point attempts en route to shooting 10-of-16 from the floor.

"I felt great," Carter said. "My teammates kept telling me all week to just keep shooting and it would begin to fall and it was great to be able to get off to a great start."

Texas A&M will meet top-seeded UCLA, which defeated Mississippi Valley State, 70-29, in the the second round on Saturday.

The Aggies (25-10) shot 54 percent (25-of-46) from the field and benefited from the play of Dominique Kirk over the final minutes. The senior guard buried a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch, including one with 28 seconds remaining that stretched the lead to 66-60 and effectively sealed the win.

"At the beginning I really couldn't knock down shots and my teammates just told me keep shooting it's going to fall for us," Kirk said. "Just going out there and believing in it and hitting them two threes ... it just felt good."

Fellow backcourt standout Donald Sloan stepped up at the end as well, knocking down a pair of free throws with 1:13 remaining and finishing with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting.

"I had butterflies from start to end," Sloan said. "I think that this was a very good team. We've been working all year just to be able to beat a team like that and it feels real good."

The Cougars (27-8) were led by sophomore forward Jonathan Tavernari, who finished with 15 points, but shot just 6-of-15 from the floor. Tavernari missed a pair of 3-point attempts as BYU made just one of five shots over the last 1:23.

"It came down to the last couple minutes of the game," Cougars coach Dave Rose said. "They made a few more shots and a few more plays than we did. We were competitive, they just did a few more things than we did."

Lee Cummard added 14 points and Trent Plaisted chipped in 13 for the Cougars, who finish the season with two straight losses after posting victories in 15 of their previous 16 contests.

Carter got the Aggies out of the gate in a hurry, pouring in three 3-pointers to spark an 11-0 run to start the game.

"It feels good to have a good performance, but we didn't come here to just win one game," Carter said. "We just want to keep it rolling and whoever we get (in the second round) we're going to play hard and want to keep doing it, keep winning."

BYU responded with an 8-2 run to pull back to within 13-8 with 9:44 left before the break, but a pair of field goals by Sloan and another 3-pointer by Carter stretched the lead back to 20-10 at the 7:16 mark.

The Cougars shot 8-of-10 from the floor over the final 6:53 to pull even, 29-29, at the break.

"Jitters from it being the beginning of the tournament and being on the big stage is the only thing I can think of to explain it, but give credit to us for battling back and getting back in the game," BYU guard Sam Burgess said.

With the BYU defense keying on Carter in the second half, Texas A&M frontcourt mates Bryan Davis and Joseph Jones went to work. Davis scored nine of his 11 points after the break and Jones pulled down nine of his 11 rebounds.

Jones also played a big role on the defensive end, taking his best shot at slow Plaisted in the final 20 minutes.

"Their big guy, Trent Plaisted is a very good player," Jones said. "Coach told us just to do the best job we can and try to keep him away from the basket and just play defense on him."