It was a rough Thanksgiving weekend for Aggie bouncy ball, with the men and the women combining to go 1-4 in their tournaments. The women mathematically had a chance to pull out a Reef division championship in the Virgin Islands if they could beat Syracuse by 12 or more. With Texas having already dispatched Memphis by 29, a win would have created a 3-way tie of 2-1 teams. The first tiebreaker was head to head net margin. tu had lost to Cuse by 12 and beaten the Ags by 11 for a net of -1. Beating Syracuse by 12 would have given the Ags a net margin of 1 and the Orange a net of 0. But the math was just an academic exercise, as the flaws revealed in Friday night's beatdown made winning problematic, much less winning by 12.
I watched some of the stream while football was on; this limited my viewing a lot. I was able to figure out that Coach Blair had tried to shake things up by changing the starting lineup. Backup PG Curtyce Knox got the start over Jordan Jones and Tori Scott started in place of the struggling Achiri Ade. Based on reviewing the play by play, the changes worked at the start of the game, with Tori opening the action by hitting a 3, and Curtyce getting a steal and a couple of assists early. By the time I got the stream up, the Syracuse play-by-play announcer was worrying about Walker; CWalk had 8 in the first 5 minutes as part of a stretch that gave the Ags a 16-11 lead (Walker led the Ags with 26 points and made the all-tournament team). But it didn't last long.
Karla Gilbert's second foul at 11:19 sent her to the bench. Freshman Jada Terry played the rest of the half, getting 2 points on 2 free throws, and being a nonfactor otherwise. Syracuse took the lead at 17-18 and stretched it to 22-17. The Ags fought back to tie it at 22 with 9:13 left in the half, but couldn't stay with the Orange. A&M was down 11 at halftime, 27-38.
Syracuse outscored the Ags 11-6 before the first timeout of the second half, and led by as many as 19 before the Ags whittled it down a bit. It was halftime in Columbia by this time, so I caught most of the end. A&M increased the defensive pressure. Jordan Jones picked Rachel Coffey's pocket and converted for a layup to cut the lead to 11. But then JJ was called for a technical foul that had the announcers confused. The most likely explanation is that she crossed the line in trash talking in some way, as I didn't see our bench complaining. Two free throws made it a 13 point lead again.
Throughout the second half, Syracuse's Brianna Butler doused any embers of an Aggie comeback, hitting 5 second-half three pointers as part of her career high 29 point night. 7 of her 9 field goals on 9/15 shooting were from behind the arc. Brittney Sykes added 15 and Shekeya Leary 14 in just 17 minutes of play. Syracuse's 2-3 zone plus trap forced the Ags into 20 turnovers. Some were caused by the trap, but as with the game vs Texas, I think others were from A&M trying to force the ball into the paint when an opening wasn't there. Replay is available if anyone wants to check:
The two losses in the Virgin Islands should drop A&M precipitously from the current #12 slot, possibly completely out of the top 25. Syracuse is good and deserves to enter the rankings, but the weekend was more about uncovering the problems in this Aggie team than it being a coming out party for Cuse. The only positive spin I can come up with is that it's good to get the reality check early; we have a Hall of Fame head coach with very good assistants (despite the nostalgia for Vic Schaeffer expressed by fans). The major problem here is that there are some things its hard to fix with coaching and schemes. The core of this team is the #2 recruiting class who are sophs.
While there is lots of individual talent in that group, my fear is that collectively we are missing some key components, especially an outside threat to stretch opposing defenses. That said, it is important to recall that this team is still young in terms of starting experience. In addition to Karla and the PGs getting their first real starting experience, newcomers are still adjusting to being at TAMU, which can be a challenge on the academic side for transfers.
Texas A&M returns to Reed Arena to play 1-4 San Diego State and 1-2 Washington on Tuesday and Saturday, respectively.