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Archive for Monday, March 13, 2006

Gillispie emotes happily

A&M coach thrilled Aggies made field

March 13, 2006

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— Texas A&M waited 19 years for a trip back to the NCAA Tournament, so what was another few minutes?

The Aggies (21-8) joined about 350 fans in a Reed Arena banquet room to watch this year's pairings show Sunday night. After only a few nervous moments, Texas A&M was one of the first names that appeared, drawing a No. 12 seed and a matchup with fifth-seeded Syracuse (23-11) on Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla.

The room exploded with cheers as coach Billy Gillispie raised both arms with clenched fists. His players embraced and danced around him as dozens of cameras flashed.

"You just hope and hope and hope and pray," said Gillispie, finishing his second season at A&M. "We were just lucky to have our name come up."

The 46-year-old Gillispie nearly broke down in tears three times as he addressed the fans from a podium.

"Y'all know me," he said, "I get emotional. It's always great to have your name called on that show."

The Aggies will make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1987.

The Aggies, 3-7 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, made their deepest run in 1980, beating Duke and North Carolina before losing to eventual champion Louisville in the Sweet 16.

None of the past mattered Sunday night.

"Six months of basketball for this opportunity," senior guard Chris Walker said. "You can't even put words on how it feels."

The Aggies started 3-6 in the Big 12, but have won eight of their last nine. They'll still be heavy underdogs against Syracuse, and Gillispie is looking forward to the challenge.

"I wouldn't put anything past this team right here," he said.

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