In the round of the NCAA women’s competition up until this point, Texas A&M guard Jordan Nixon hit a running, twisting floater as the buzzer sounded to beat Iowa State in additional time, 84-82, and give the Aggies a spot in the Sweet 16.
“The only thing I thought was ‘push,'” Nixon said. “Push. Gotta go, gotta get out. As soon as I put the shot up, I knew it was going in. Honestly.
“Once I saw daylight, I didn’t think I had enough time to do anything, but my teammates ran the floor and I just had to put it up,” Nixon said. “Put it up is the only thing I thought. Live with the shot, live with the decision. I’m happy it went in.”
It covered Nixon’s career night – 35 points on 16-of-28 shooting in addition to 7 helps – with the sophomore coming up in one big moment after another as the second-seeded Aggies moved out of a second-half hole.
“It’s always about trust for me,” Nixon said. “My teammates wanted to give me the ball, wanted me to make shots. They trusted me to make plays and they trusted me to lead this team.”
For Nixon, it was additionally a passionate game as she unobtrusively had dedicated it to her secondary school coach, Dave Edwards, an Aggie alum, who died one year and one day prior from COVID-19 at age 48.
“He was one of my biggest fans,” Nixon said. “This game was for him.”
Iowa State, a 7-seed, fabricated a 12-point second-half lead behind a whirlwind of long-range shooting from freshman Lexi Donarski and junior Ashley Joens. Joens poured in 32 points in addition to 18 bounce back and seemed to have sealed a trip to the Sweet 16 for the Cyclones with an and-1 with 39 seconds to play to put Iowa State up four.
Aggie guard N’dea Jones addressed rapidly with a layup, Jones made two free throws and Nixon addressed again with a jumper. A&M caught the inbound pass and constrained a jump ball, opening the door for Nixon to attach the game with a layup with five seconds left.
“Jordan Nixon is a winner. She’s so good,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “I still remember two years ago when she came down on her official visit. Sometimes you just get lucky and you know the fit is perfect. When she came in she fit like perfection.”
The first lead the Aggies took came in additional time when Nixon opened the additional frame with a 3. It was a granulate for Texas A&M as Iowa State beat back each run with an answer. However, Nixon had more answers, hitting pull-up jumpers in enormous spots to keep A&M within striking distance to set up the ringer beating sprinter.
“Jordan has that moment in her. She wants the moment,” Blair said. “That was probably the shot heard all over the state of Texas. I hope everybody was watching that one.”
Down the stretch, the force erupted in the Alamodome and regardless of the huge void of the enormous field, the little crowd of relatives were raucous. They bothered authorities, recited and cheered, stepped and applauded. It made for an essential climate regardless of the COVID-19 protocols preventing a traditional tourney atmosphere.
“It was a phenomenal college basketball game,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said.
After the shot dropped in, just before her partners amassed her for a dogpile, Nixon stood almost motionless, taking in the scene and attempting to preview the memory.
“I was savoring the moment. In this age, in this time, we’re always thinking about the next thing, always looking forward,” she said, “but that moment when I stopped, that was me taking it in. We’re going to the Sweet 16, we just clawed back against a really, really good team, down to the wire. These are the moments. These are the moments you remember with your teammates. We’re always going to remember this day, this year and this tournament.”
The Aggies will play No. 3 seed Arizona on Saturday.
“We need about two weeks off,” Blair joked, “and then we’ll come back and play.”