Aggies Down DePaul

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Bobby Leach scored 23 points and Texas A&M nearly squandered a 20-point lead before holding on to beat DePaul 75-72 Saturday in the second round of the NIT.

The Aggies (21-9) will face the winner of Holy Cross and Buffalo-Saint Joseph's in the third round.

Leach gave the Aggies a 73-68 lead with 21.6 seconds left when he made a pair of free throws after a technical foul on DePaul when Blue Demons' guard LeVar Seals called for a timeout when the Blue Demons had none left.

But Leach nearly gave it right back, fouling Drake Diener on a 3-point attempt a second later. Diener dropped in all three to cut the lead to 73-71.

A&M freshman Dominique Kirk was fouled twice and made two of his four free throws, twice extending the lead to three and giving DePaul (20-11) a chance to tie. But Diener and Sammy Mejia missed 3-pointers in the closing seconds.

Antoine Wright had 19 points and Joseph Jones 14 for the Aggies, while Leach had 13 of his points in the second half. A&M won despite missing five free throws in the final minute.

Mejia scored 23, Quemont Greer 20 and Diener 18 for DePaul, which trailed 44-26 at the half.

Wright hit three 3-pointers and Leach made two and also a layup in the Aggies' 19-4 first-half run that opened up a 20-point lead.

A&M used a tough first-half defense to smother Diener, who had scored a career-high 30 points in a first-round win over Missouri. With Kirk shadowing Diener and denying him the ball, he didn't get off a shot in the first 11 minutes, finishing the half with seven points.

DePaul shot just 28 percent on its home floor in the first half, making 7 of 25 shots, while A&M made 16 of 30 (53 percent). The Blue Demons finished at 37 percent to 50 percent for the Aggies.

A&M, which beat Clemson in the first round for its first postseason win in 23 years, took control with a quick 13-0 run that featured seven points from reserve Marlon Pompey and opened up a 22-12 lead.

The game attracted a small but vocal crowd of 4,112 at the All-State Arena. In five days the same arena will be overflowing when it hosts the semifinals and finals of the NCAA's Chicago Regional.