MEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Sammy Allen’s score at the buzzer lifts No. 11 UTPB to dramatic win over No. 10 Texas A&M-Commerce

A packed arena fell silent, on bated breath — as three referees huddled around a monitor.

Weighed by every bit of the drama that’s come to be expected in the colossal showdowns UTPB’s high-flying Falcons men’s basketball team has charged its way into of late, supporters playing another part in a college basketball movement in the Permian Basin stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the Falcon Dome, the school’s modest gym on campus, modified Thursday with additional seating and a standing-room-only fitting for a battle between the No. 10 and No. 11 teams in Division II.

Here, all the theatrics, excitement and passion that come with such a contest had already spilled across the court floor, and then, with zeros strewn across the game clock, the packed building waited and watched as officials reviewed Sammy Allen’s last-moment shot.

Both teams stood near their benches, turned to the monitor behind the scoring table. Hands rested on hips in exhaustion, fingers interlocked over heads in anticipation.

Minds raced. Some players put their arms around one another, nervous. Falcons coach Andy Newman hoped it was time his team caught a break.

Allen, though, as an arena trembled, found himself at peace.

The officials stepped away from the monitor, circled around the scorer’s table, whistled and motioned to count the basket, and, with that, the No. 11 UTPB men’s basketball team beat No. 10 Texas A&M-Commerce 64-63 to put the Falcons back on top of the Lone Star Conference standings, and earn UTPB its second win over top-10 team this season at home.

Moments earlier, UTPB trailed 63-62 with 10 seconds to play before Allen’s put-back basket at the buzzer bounced off the glass and in.

And moments after the review, Falcons supporters stormed the court to join players jumping for joy to celebrate another memorable, dramatic victory on the Falcon Dome floor.

UTPB moved to 15-2 on the season and 7-1 in the Lone Star Conference, knocking Texas A&M-Commerce, previously the league’s last unbeaten, down to 14-2 and 7-1.

The Falcons saw an 11-game winning streak snapped last weekend 84-83 at Angelo State, but pushed back to take Thursday’s big victory, another that ranks among the most important in program history as the Falcons’ history-making run rolls on.

“I’m speechless,” Allen said after Thursday’s win. “It’s crazy. I don’t know what to do. I’m just enjoying the moment.”

Fellow seniors Daeshon Francis, James McPherson and Josh Morris all scored 15 points to lead UTPB, while Allen scored 11 points and hauled in 16 rebounds.

His most important two points — and his biggest rebound — came in a flash in the last seconds of the game.

UTPB trailed by a single point, coming up with a needed stop in the waning moments of the game and taking a timeout with 10 seconds left to play. Out of the timeout, Francis dribbled the ball up the court, finding McPherson to one side. McPherson’s shot hit the front of the rim and fell to the floor, but Allen was there to get to it, corral it near the baseline, then hurried put down a dribble, spin to the hoop and lift a shot at the buzzer, and it fell in.

“It was just an incredible effort by Sammy,” Newman said. “He’s the toughest guy on the floor. He just wants it more than anyone else.

“He just did it. He just willed us to a victory.”

It was a single play that epitomizes the effort of Allen, the ever-enigmatic 6-foot-2 guard who averages 11.8 rebounds per game and stands among the nation’s top rebounders in the NCAA.

“He told us, ‘I want you to shoot it, because if you miss, I’m going to get the rebound.’ He told me that,” McPherson said.

“That’s how it happened. He’s a true competitor, a true champion, a true warrior.”

Yet, as the officials went to the monitor to review that final shot, and the Falcon Dome waited tensely and nervously, Allen was calm.

“I put it in God’s hands,” Allen said simply.

UTPB and Texas A&M-Commerce will meet again in Commerce in UTPB’s regular-season finale at the end of February.

The Falcons host Tarleton State on Saturday, for a game that’ll mark the halfway point of the conference season for UTPB. After, the Falcons will roll through their nine league foes again for a series of rematches.

UTPB entered Thursday’s game stewing after that narrow, 1-point loss on the road at Angelo State last Saturday.

“I just knew this team really needed a break,” Newman said. “It was heart-wrenching, and I feel for those guys in that other locker room, because they played a great game.”

The Falcons got their break Thursday night — and now they’ll look to use it well, and push their way back onto another winning streak.

“I’m just enjoying it,” Allen said. “I can’t really think too much right now.

“It still hasn’t hit me yet.”

{{tncms-inline account=”OAJustinLee” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="">#UTPB</a> wins in the most dramatic fashion.Sammy Allen scores with the putback and No. 11 UTPB tops No. 10 Texas A&M-Commerce 64-63, final score. <a href=""></a></p>— Justin Lee (@OAJustinLee) <a href="">January 19, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”954202409315848192″ type=”twitter”}}

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