Auburn-A&M was the last game of the four quarterfinal matchups in Duluth. The day opened with Georgia getting run out of the gym by the Lady Gamecocks. S. Carolina scored on its first possession and held the Dawgs to 18 points in the first half while scoring 35. Largest lead was 27. S. Carolina 67, Georgia 48. The next game was more interesting. Florida, who had swept Kentucky in the regular season, jumped out to a 7-0 lead and was up 36-29 at halftime. The Gators clung to a slim lead through the beginning of the second half until UK tied it at 50 with 12:11 to go. Kentucky went up 6 but Florida clawed back to tie the game at 70 with 1:29 to go. Unfortunately for the Gators, that was the end of their scoring. The Wildcats scored the last 5 to take the win, 75-70.
The winner of LSU-Tennessee would face the winner of Auburn-A&M. Although the Ags were the 3 seed and the Lady Vols got the 2, A&M's matchup looked better going into the tourney, and it seemed that way when the Swamp Kittens jumped out 22-8 first half lead. LSU held onto the lead in the second half and was up 55-51 on a pair of Jean Kenney free throws with 8:32 to go. They didn't score again until the 3:09 mark, by which time Tennessee had added 15 to their total. Final: 77-65 Lady Vols. Theresa Plaisance had 21 points before fouling out. Tennessee advanced and waited for the winner of our game.
Ags run away from Auburn
The Ags went back to the starting lineup of Jones, Walker, WIlliams, Ade, and Gilbert. Auburn, as expected, played an aggressive, trapping zone. The defending SEC tourney champs came out red hot, hitting their first 6 shots before the first media timeout (which followed an Auburn timeout). The Ags led 13-4 by that time and it only got worse for the Autigers. Courtney Walker hit her first seven shots in a row and had 19 by the time the Ags took a 43-26 lead into halftime. Auburn scored first in the second half, but the Ags outscored the Tigresses 20-4 coming out of the break. The largest lead was 37 points before Auburn closed the gap somewhat against the bench. Final score: 86-54.
Courtney Walker finished with 25 points on 11-15 shooting. Williams added 12 points and 8 boards, while Karla Gilbert had 15 points and 7 boards. Karla blocked a shot to tie Morenike Atunrase's season record of 58. Jordan Jones had her third game in a row with 10+ assists. Her 11 assists brought her season total to 216, good for third all-time for the Ags behind Lisa Branch's 231 in 1995-96 and Sydney Colson's 221 in 2010-11. 13 Ags played and 11 scored at least 2 points. Alison Chu and Jada Terry were the only ones who couldn't score; Jada managed to grab a rebound and commit 3 fouls in her 6 minutes at the end. As a team, the Ags shot 58.5% and the 86 points was a season high. A&M outrebounded Auburn 43-26.
Other WBB context
The Ags are a 3 seed in Bracketology and are in the 11-12 range in RPI. Some of the games in other conferences could affect our chances of moving up or down, although we are probably going to be a 3 in the NCAA tourney in any case.
- Penn State lost to Ohio State. This is bad for our SoS, but we are near Penn State in the S-curve.
- Maryland lost to UNC. Maryland is a 3 in Bracketology, while UNC is a 4. Maybe they trade places.
- Cal lost to Washington State. Cal was behind us already as a 5, but now can't go on a run and bump us.
A notable non-upset was NC State beating Syracuse. The Wolfpack could climb up from their projected 5 seed, but since they play undefeated #2 Notre Dame next, it's not likely. The Ags win wasn't enough to rate any new pics in the photo library. A&M's most recent pics there are still from Dec 15, 2013.
Up Next: Rematch with Tennessee
The Ags have now made the semis in 9 straight conference tourneys. In our second year in the SEC, we face Tennessee in the semis both times. The Ags are anxious to show that the Vols 11 point win over the Ags in Reed was not representative of the relative strengths of the two teams. Tennessee led that game by 16 at halftime and it never got close. The Lady Vols had been had been inconsistent before that, but playing Andraya Carter in place of the injured Ariel Massengale the Vols seemed to rally and play really well against the Ags and continued to play well down the stretch. Tennessee's largest weakness was summarized by Rocky Top Talk's Chris Pendey in their game thread on Friday Night:
In order of scariness:
- any of the crappy refs making a stain on the game
- South Carolina / Texas A&M
Sounds weird, but TAMU and South Carolina don't do a great job attacking Tennessee's weakness (perimeter D). LSU, as we've learned, does.
I agree, as for the season the Ags were #13 in the SEC in 3 point % and last in 3 pointers attempted and made. But then the Ags went out and hit 4-7 from behind the arc against Auburn and got 56/86 points outside the paint, including lots of intermediate jumpers of the kind that they clanged against Tennessee at Reed. So, maybe the Ags can put more pressure on the Volunteer D than last time, and perhaps Coach Starkey can come up with an unexpected game plan to stop the balanced and potent Tennessee attack.
- How will Meighan Simmons play? She was amazing at Reed, scoring an efficient 26 points. But her rep is that sometimes she presses too hard and takes ill-advised shots or turns it over. It's scary to imagine her playing better than we saw the first time. Holding her to 14ish, as she got vs LSU would close the gap.
- Can the Ags come out shooting anywhere close to what we saw vs Auburn. At Reed the CW network was 14-39. On Friday night they were 16-24.
- How will the Ags handle the Tennessee front line?
- Will there be a photo to use for the recap?
1:30 PM CST approximate; Kentucky and S. Carolina play first at 11 AM CST. There should be plenty of time to watch the women and still catch the men at Reed at 4, for those who are so inclined.