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Ailing McNamara goes out with a whimper

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- This time, there would be no miracles. This time, all Syracuse senior Gerry McNamara could do was sit on the bench, rubbing his neck until it turned every shade of red as the fifth-seeded Orange fell 66-58 to No. 12 seed Texas A&M.

McNamara, who single-handedly carried Syracuse to the Big East championship just four days earlier, was a shell of himself due to a groin injury that held him out of practice and kept him on the bench for much of the second half, including the final five minutes.

"If you watched the game, you knew why he wasn't in the game," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "Gerry could not make plays tonight. If anything, I played him too much."

Of course, McNamara wouldn't admit as much. When asked about his health, McNamara simply stared at the ground and said, "I feel all right. I feel great. My last game and we lost, probably because of me. It's fantastic, a great feeling."

Forgive McNamara for being bitter. After making amazing, game-winning plays in four consecutive days at the Big East Tournament to cement his Syracuse legacy, McNamara didn't even finish with four points in his final NCAA Tournament.

He couldn't get off screens. He couldn't get his legs under his shots. In all, he was 0-of-6, including 0-of-5 on 3-pointers. He finished with two points thanks to a pair of free throws, but for the first time in his career at Syracuse, McNamara didn't make a field goal.

"We don't make excuses," Boeheim said. "They played well defensively and they deserved to win the game."

They, of course, are the Aggies. It's easy to forget about them. They weren't even sure they were going to be in the tournament, and snagging the 12th seed is hardly a badge of honor. But it kind of fits Texas A&M.

"We don't play a real pretty game," senior Chris Walker said. "It's ugly, and that's the way we like it. It surprises a lot of people."

It surprised everyone Thursday night. Who knew the Aggies could play defense like this? They aren't the most athletic team. They aren't real big. They're just, well, annoying. Really, they just won't go away. Ask Syracuse, which was held to just 39 percent shooting (20-of-51) from the field, including 4-of-19 from 3-point range.

"You could sense they were getting frustrated," said A&M's Acie Law, who finished with 23 points. "That's what we do. We play hard, get in your face and get on your nerves. It's a credit to our team defense, and we just try to frustrate other teams."

So far, it's working. They've won nine of their last 10 games, but if the Aggies had their way, everyone would talk about anything but Texas A&M. To them, it's better that McNamara's injury is in the spotlight and not the A&M defense. They like flying under the radar a little better.

"Back when we were 3-6 in conference and had just lost to Texas, we had a team meeting and decided we would shock the world," Law said. "No one outside of this family, this team believed in us. It made us what we are today, and we've been rolling ever since."

Joe Wojciechowski is a contributor to ESPN.com.