"But why had he always felt so strongly the magnetic pull of home, why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter, and if this little town, and the immortal hills around it, was not the only home he had on earth? He did not know. All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day men come home again." - Thomas Wolfe, You can't go home again
Instead of savoring the War Hymn, WBB fans used to leave Reed as soon as the games were over to turn on the car radio in time for Vic's post-game comments to Mike Wright. He always ended those with "Praise the Lord and Gig 'Em!". Coach Schaefer left the Aggies at the end of the 2012 campaign to take the HC job at Miss. State. When the Ags faced MSU in Starkville last year, Vic was interviewed. It was weird to hear "Praise the Lord and Hail State!".
When Vic left to head the Lady Bulldogs, he hired Johnnie Harris away from Blair's staff to be his Associate Head Coach. Most of the players on the current Aggie team played for Vic and Johnnie or were recruited by them. He hired Aqua Franklin away from Kansas, where she was mentoring point guards as an assistant coach after a year as a GA here. Aqua had been the first of the Ags great point guards, leading the team that made it to the Elite 8 in 2008, and then playing in the WNBA. Maryann Baker went from being a player on the 2011 National Champs to a grad assistant for Blair to Vic's Director of Bouncy Ball Operations. Skylar Collins played on the 2011 NC team and took Baker's role as the senior spark off the bench the following season. She joined Vic's staff this year. Vic did hire one assistant without A&M ties. The A&M ties were why the pregame intros included not just the opposing players and head coach, but 4/5 members of his staff. The crowd at Reed gave each of them a warm welcome. No rattling copies of the Batt for these old friends. With Colson on our bench and Sydney Carter in the stands, Reed could have been called Reunion Arena.
Then the game started and the Ags Beat the Hell Outta State.
The Lady Bulldogs looked like a Vic Schaefer team. They played aggressive man to man D for the vast majority of the game. They pressed. They drew charges. But they were just outmatched. This was not expected; in his second year, Vic had the Lady Dogs playing much better than in his inaugural campaign. They had gone 13-1 in their nonconference games. Although they were 1-3 in SEC play, they had a road win at Arkansas and had played Tennessee close in Starkville in their last game. The Vols only won by 4 with a FT advantage of 18/25 vs 7/12. I thought this was a possible trap game due to how drained everyone was after Thursday's win vs S. Carolina. But the Ags sucked it up and worked extra hard:
We had some really long practices the past few days based on the fact that they know all of our plays.
- Courtney Walker in the postgame
The Ags were up 7 at 13-6 when it looked like State's best player, 6-4 Jr Martha Alwal was going to get going and help the Lady Bulldogs make it a game. Alwal hit two contested jumpers, sending Karla Gilbert to the bench with 2 fouls at 11:54 of the first half. Rachel Mitchell came in and had her best game of the year. Rachel shut down Alwal, who did not score again. Meanwhile the Ags built a 17 point first half lead, led by Courtney Walker, who was hitting her short jumpers. A&M went into the break up 13, holding Miss St. to just 20 points.
Despite the 13 point lead, Coach Blair said later he was frustrated with how the Ags had executed. He coached them up to play even better coming out of the break. The Ags opened the second half on a 10-0 run. At that point Coach Schaefer pulled 4 of his starters; two never returned. The lead got as high as 42.
A recurring theme in fan comments since Coach Vic left A&M has been how much people miss his stifling defenses. Coach Bob Starkey is probably tired of hearing that. In SEC play, the Ags have held opponents to 31, 20, 17, 17, and 20 in the first half. After holding the Lady Bulldogs to 20 in the first half, the Ags held them to 15 in the second. MSU shot 20.9% for the game. The Ags blocked 13 shots and outrebounded State 51-29. A&M was 52.9% of FGs. Walker, Williams, and Ade all scored in double figures. Ade was one board short of a double-double. Jones had 9 assists while playing only 26 minutes. After getting shut out vs Carolina, the bench contributed 20 of the 73.
After the game, Coach Vic talked about how they all appreciated the introductions, how disappointed he was in how they played, and how they were hitting the road right away to get home to prepare for Ole Miss. In hindsight, the Lady Bulldogs were more set up for a letdown than the Ags. With a thinner roster, they had just battled the Vols in a close loss. Any SEC road game is tough, but they were a young team playing the mentor of most of their coaches. Now that this game is behind us, we can root for Vic and his girls to play spoilers to the rest of the league.
The win kept the Ags undefeated in conference play and on top of the SEC, for now. A&M entered the week climbing back into the polls at #25 in the AP and #21 in the USA Today coaches poll. The Ags should be moving up when the next polls arrive. In addition to going 2-0 for the week with a win over #8, several of the teams just above us lost in upsets.
Up Next: at Mizzou
The Ags hit the road for a Thursday game with fellow B12 escapees Missouri. 6-1 Sr F Bri Kulas is the leading scorer. She went off for 30 on Sunday against LSU. Unfortunately for the MU Tigers, that only canceled Jeanne Kenney's 30 for the LSU Tigers, and the rest of Kulas' team was only good for 38 points, while Kenney's teammates scored 57. How the Ags defend Kulas and 5-9 Jr. G Morgan Eye will be worth watching. 135 of Eye's 159 FGA have been 3-pointers. She's made 59. Mizzou is averaging 10.1 made 3s per game, good for 3rd in the nation. 6-1 Fr F Jordan Frericks leads the team in rebounds, while averaging 8.7 ppg. Mizzou is 13-5 overall and 2-3 in the SEC with wins over Ole Miss and Georgia and losses to Arkansas, Kentucky, and LSU.
No TV for this game, as far as I can tell.