WBB:School Daze

Future teacher Karla Gilbert from last season - Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The Ags played an early game for a crowd filled with elementary school kids from the area. TAMU ran away from Nicholls State, but we didn't learn much.

The Women's Bouncy Ball team bounced out of bed for a 7AM pregame prep and hit the floor at Reed Arena for an 11AM tipoff against the 4-3 Nicholls State Colonels from Thibodaux, LA. The game was a promotion where tickets and a hot dog were provided for kids from 20 area elementary schools. Why play so early? Perhaps to make a flight, or maybe to acclimate the players to the 11AM EST start vs. St Johns on Sunday.

~4000 5th and 6th graders can make a lot of noise, so Reed was rocking all game long. The kids cheered everything, and the Ags said afterward that it was a lot of fun playing for such an energetic crowd. Nicholls was obviously overmatched, but played hard all the way to the 73-39 end. Afterward, a Santa-hat wearing Coach Blair talked about the game being TLC for his players whose confidence has been bruised by recent road losses. It was also an opportunity to work on some things, including:

  • Learning objective 1: attacking zone defenses. Washington, Penn State, and Nicholls all played 2-3 zone for most or all of the game. The Ags did better against the zone today. Part of it was the level of the opposition, but at times A&M pushed the ball before the zone could set up. In the half court offense, there were some good passes around and over the zone, and what was most striking was that they took more of the 10-15 ft jumpers that Blair wants instead of jacking up 3s or driving into traffic. That said, the coaches were yelling "MOVE!" a lot when we were on offense.
  • Learning objective 2: Press defense. We pressed a lot. We didn't turn them over; until late in the game the Ags had more turnovers than the Colonels. Coach says we'll keep working on the press until we get better at it.
  • Learning objective 3: Odd lineups. Some of this was getting playing time for almost everyone in a blowout, but there was also experimentation going on. Coach Blair in the postgame talked about how we may need to go small at times, especially when Karla gets into foul trouble, as happened at Penn State. We saw lineups where Achiri Ade was the post. We saw lineups where Courtney Williams was the post. Coach likened this to the old days here at A&M, before he was able to recruit size. There was also a twin-backup-towers lineup where Rachel Mitchell played the 4 while Jada Terry was the 5.
  • Learning objective 4: Community relations. Huge success on this one.

Courtney Williams led the Ags with 14 points and 8 boards. Courtney Walker had 11 points and 5 assists. Karla and Achiri each had 9 points. On a per minute basis, Chelsea Jennings' 8 points in just 15 minutes and Tavarsha Scott-Williams' 8 boards in 15 minutes were impressive. Tavarsha seems to have a knack for getting loose basketballs. Jones and Knox split the point guard duties evenly. Rachel Mitchell came in earlier and played better than the last time I saw here live. The Ags shot 49.2% from the field and were 5-10 from behind the arc. TAMU outboarded Nicholls 47-31, and held the Colonels to 22.8% shooting. When you hold a team to 39 points, the D is pretty good, but there were still some defensive breakdowns.

The Ags did look better overall, but this was a weak opponent at home, and the Ags have blown out weak opponents at home before.

The Ags hit the road again to play St. John's in Madison Square Garden as the opener in the Maggie Dixon Classic. St John's was a tourney team last year, but are only 5-4 as of today, having lost 4 of their last 5 games. One of these was a 69-55 loss to Auburn. The Red Storm started a 4 guard lineup in their last game, a 64-51 loss to James Madison.

  • 6-2 JR F Amber Thompson 5.3 ppg 6.7 rpg
  • 5-9 SO G Aliyyah Handford 20.2 ppg 7.8 rpg. Handford was on the all Big East Freshman team last season.
  • 5-5 FR G Aaliyah Lewis (We have two Courtneys, they have Aliyyah and Aaliyah) 7.5 ppg, 3.6 apg
  • 5-8 SR G Briana Brown 10.9 ppg
  • 5-9 SR G Keylantra Landry 8.9 ppg. Landry seems to have taken the starting spot that was held by 5-9 SO G Ashley Perez, who has left the team.

5-8 RS SR G Eugenia McPherson is averaging 20 minutes and 12 points per game off the bench. The Storm are averaging 67.4 ppg while giving up 65 ppg. 6-4 Selina Archer is a transfer from Miami who I think is sitting out this year. That makes their tallest players Thompson and 6-2 SO F Sandra Udobi, who averages 2.5 ppg and 2.5 rpg in 10 min/game.

As noted above, it will be an early start on Sunday (10AM CST) as the front end of a double-header (UConn-Cal is game 2). The game will be on ESPNU.

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