WBB: Reason to believe

Jordan Jones had 14 assists in a game that took place 2.5 months after this photo - Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Twenty years ago on March 16, Texas A&M and the Univ. of Florida faced off in Women's Bouncy Ball for the first time. The two teams have only played 3 times, in 3 different venues. Florida finally got home court, 20 years after a Rod Stewart concert caused the NCAA to move a March Madness game to G. Rollie. It didn't help, as the Ags stayed undefeated against the Gators with a 83-72 win.

First half

For the second game in a row, Coach Blair went with a starting lineup of Jordan Jones, Courtney Walker, Tori Scott, Courtney Williams, and Karla Gilbert. Expecting a lot of zone, Tori is a better scoring threat than Achiri Ade, and against a smaller team the Ags can get away with playing Williams at the 4. Scott's presence in the lineup turned out to be key to getting a quick lead out of the gate. The Ags jumped out to a 7 point lead less than 2:15 into the game. 15 seconds after that Jones picked up her second foul and went to the bench. Walker followed her after picking up her second foul. The lead fluctuated and was as large as 8 at 11:09 when Achiri Ade got a putback of a Williams miss. Although the team was holding Florida at bay, the offense wasn't clicking as well with Curtyce at the point, so Blair took a risk and put Jones back in the game with 6 minutes to go in the first half. The lead was down to 3 when Courtney Williams got her second foul going for the rebound on an Ade miss. With the CW Network both out, the Ags had a lineup of Jones playing with 2 fouls, Gilbert, Ade, Scott and Chelsea Jennings. Carlie Needles hit the front end and missed the second. It looked like the Ags had the rebound, but it was fumbled leading to a kickout to Lily Svete, who hit a 3 to give the Gators the lead. The teams traded scores and the Ags had a 1 point lead at 34-33 when Jones committed her third foul and had to go out again.  But the Gators couldn't convert the FTs on that play. The Ags ended up taking a 35-34 lead into the break.

With foul trouble all over and the Gators sagging on Karla, Scott led all scorers with 12 points in the first half. Jaterra Bonds led Florida with 15. The Ags lead could have been larger if the FT shooting was better. A&M only hit 7-13 from the line in the first half. Both teams had 4 players with 2 or more fouls at halftime. Walker, Williams, and Jennings had 2, while Jones had 3. For the Gators, Ronni Williams, Cassie Peoples, January Miller, and Lily Svete all had 2 fouls. Freshman forward R. Williams has been prone to fouling out this season, and she only played 6 minutes in the half.

Second half

I was surprised that Blair had Jones start the second half with 3 fouls. Jordan was joined by Gilbert, Scott, Walker, and Ade. The Ags started getting the ball inside to Karla and Achiri for layups. Just as they did to start the game, A&M started hot. The Ags the 1 point halftime lead to 8 before the Gators scored in the second half. Jones was finding teammates for easy buckets left and right. Walker was heating up. The lead was 9 at the 14:26 mark.

Florida fought back as Needles hit a pair of 3s. I thought perhaps she had more open looks than normal due to Jones not wanting to pick up her 4th foul on the perimeter. The Ags were also having trouble with Kayla Lewis' quickness in the paint, and Bonds was still playing well. But at the 11:08 mark Bonds came down awkwardly after missing a layup. It turned out that she had a bad cramp and had to be carried to the locker room. With their leader out, and perhaps more importantly, R. Williams subbed in and in foul trouble, the Gators tried to hang in there, but the Ags went inside even more. A&M pulled ahead by double digits, leading by as much as 13.

By the time it was over, Karla Gilbert had scored 18 of her game-leading 23 points in the second half. Ade added 10 to go with her 4 from before the break. In getting them the ball, Jones ended up with 14 assists. The Ags shot 58.1% after halftime.

Overall and Context

Gilbert led all scorers with 23 points. Surprisingly, Karla was only credited with 2 rebounds for the game. Ade cleaned the glass by grabbing 13 rebounds for a double-double.  Tori had 19 points and 5 steals. Florida had 4 starters in double figures, led by Bonds' 18, but it wasn't enough.

Jones' 14 assists were a career high and was good for a 5-way tie for 5th in the all-time single game assists totals. The season assists mark is 231 by Lisa Branch in 1995-96. Jones 14 brought her up to 205, which is good for 4th all-time behind Branch with 231 and 214 and Sydney Colson with 221 in the National Championship year. JJ is assured of at least 2 more games in the postseason, and the Ags should be good for more than 2, which means the record could be in danger this year.  Karla got credit for 3 blocks, bringing her total to 57 for the year. The single-season record is Morenike Atunrase's 58 in 2005-6. Karla is currently tied for second with Mo's 2004-5 season. For her career, Karla has 143 blocks, which puts her alone in second place to Atunrase's 176.

13-3 in conference is tied for the best regular season conference record A&M has ever had. The last time we did it was 2010-11, which turned out pretty well for the Women's Bouncy Ballers. 7-1 on the road has never been done before. This team has come a long way from the squad that lost 2 games badly in the islands.

Up Next: the SEC tourney

The Ags win dashed Florida's hopes of stealing the 4 seed for the SEC tourney. As it happened, the Gators were going to get the 5th seed when UK held on against Vandy. The top 4 spots and bottom 4 were set once the A&M/Florida game was over, but the middle 6 teams had some end-of-season chaos.  LSU, Auburn, and Vanderbilt started the day at 7-8, so I expected the Gator loss to drop them into a tie 3 or 4-way tie. Vandy losing at Kentucky was expected, but LSU and Auburn should have been favored at Alabama and Ole Miss, respectively. Ole Miss had only one SEC win, but after we played them, Courtney Walker called them an upset waiting to happen. Auburn was the victim of that upset, in OT. Perhaps even more surprising was LSU losing by 18 at Alabama. The Tide have been improving under Kristi Curry, but this was supposed to be the game where LSU righted the ship after losing 5, staring with the game in Reed. Instead, LSU takes a 6-game losing streak into the tourney, and Bama joins a traffic jam at 7-9 with Vandy, Auburn, Georgia, and LSU. I'm not sure how the tiebreakers worked, but I suspect coin flips were involved. Here are the seeds

  1. S. Carolina
  2. Tennessee
  3. A&M
  4. Kentucky
  5. Florida
  6. Auburn
  7. Bama
  8. Vandy
  9. Georgia
  10. LSU
  11. Arkansas
  12. Mizzou
  13. Miss State
  14. Ole Miss

The Ags side of the bracket has the winner of Ole Miss-Arkansas taking on Auburn. The Ags play the winner of that game on Friday night at 7:30 CST. Tennessee has the higher 2 seed, but gets the winner of a LSU-Bama rematch. I have to think that Nikki Caldwell will figure out what ails the Bayou Bengals before Thursday. LSU beat Tennessee early in the season, so LSU could be dangerous. Kentucky has Florida in their bracket. The Gators swept the Cats in the regular season. If Bonds is fully recovered from her cramp problem, the Gators could get past the winner of Vic's girls vs the Mizzou mad bombers. Vandy and Georgia play for the right to face S. Carolina's bounce back from their loss in Knoxville.

In honor of that first win over Florida in 1994, here's some geriatric rocker music that was a hit before the players were born:

Ags vs Somebody on Friday night. TV coverage is on Sports South, whatever that is. I just hope it's something we get here in College Station.

BTHO whoever it is!

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