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WBB: Ags Arctic Blast Auburn

The Texas A&M Women's Basketball team went on the road during an Arctic Blast after Tennessee ended a 9 game win streak. The Ags blasted Auburn despite 27 turnovers to get another road win and hang on to first place in the SEC.

Karla Gilbert had 16 pts, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks vs Auburn
Karla Gilbert had 16 pts, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks vs Auburn
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday weather affected the Women's Bouncy Ball team's game at Auburn in several ways. In traveling to Auburn, the team had to fly into Atlanta, and were fortunate to have an existing relationship with the only charter service that was on the road. The tip was moved up to 5PM to accommodate moving the Iron Bowl Hoops Men's game, which was postponed from Wednesday to Thursday, which led to a fuller student section than usual for WBB.

With this being another game with no TV and my being unwilling to pay other schools for their streams, here is the sum total of plays I actually watched from this game:

The Ags came out with their usual starting five. Auburn started the Tanner twins, Muhammad, Taylor and Montgomery. The game started out sloppily as both teams turned the ball over several times. After Auburn scored first on a 3, the Ags went on a 14-0 run to take the early lead. AU's leading scorer, Tyrese Tanner, got her second foul during that run and was scoreless in the first half. A&M dominated the first half, leading at one point by 19. The halftime score was only a doubling of the AUtigers total: 32-16. The Ags dominated the boards 22-10 and had 8 steals, 5 by Jordan Jones, who was frustrating the Auburn guards. The Ags also blocked 6 shots. Auburn shot 21.7% from the field. Courtney Williams had 13 at halftime; Karla Gilbert had 8. A&M shot 53.8% from the field. It could have been worse for Auburn; the Ags had 13 turnovers at half. Auburn presses and then falls back into a zone. When the Ags broke the press, there were easy buckets to be had.

First half

pts in the paint pts off TO Fast Break
Ags 20 8 8
AUTigers 6 10 0

At halftime, with a 16 point lead, Coach Blair talked about how "turnovers are killing us" and how Jones was a bit out of control. These words turned out to be prophetic.

"We knew going in at halftime we could turn them over. It was just a matter of us turning them over and not converting those into points. I think during the first half we played a little timid and a little scared. They jumped right on our point guards and that set the tone immediately to start the game." - Auburn Coach Terry Williams-Flournoy

Coming out of the locker room, Auburn ramped up their defensive pressure and the Ags suddenly had trouble breaking the press. The lead was cut in half by 2.5 minutes into the second half. The Ags would stretch it to 12 or so, but the Tigers kept getting turnovers and cutting it to single digits. Then with 13:43 left, Jones, who went to the bench with two fouls in the first half, picked up her 4th and said something that got her foul #5 on a technical. Auburn made all 3 free throws to cut it to 40-33. Tori Scott scored the next 5 points, but Auburn to got back to within 8 with 11:40 remaining at 45-37. The Aggie turnovers were still piling up.

But with the crowd threatening to get excited, the Ags regrouped and outscored Auburn 22-5 to make the score 67-42 with under 5 minutes to go. A&M coasted to the final 71-54 road win. Tori Scott played a major role in holding off the Tigers by scoring 13 of her 15 after the break on 7-8 shooting (1-2 from 3). In the postgame, Tori was asked if she was in a zone where she felt she couldn't miss. Her answer: "not really". Courtney Williams led all scorers with 17. Karla was right behind with 16 points and 8 boards. Karla was also 7-8 from the field. Courtney Walker made it 4 Ags in double figures with 13 points.

The Ags finished with 27 turnovers. Some you credit to Auburn's press, but others were unforced (see the first play of the game from that Youtube highlight). Blair said afterward that he can't remember a game where one of his teams had 27 turnovers and won. The margin of victory with 27 turnovers was remarkable. That's because, as Coach Starkey said in the postgame, A&M was good at everything else: 57.4 FG% 3-7 from 3. Won the rebounding 41-25. 19 assists, 15 steals and 6 blocks.

Auburn's steals and fast breaks brought their FG% for the game up to 32.1% The AUTigers almost matched out turnovers by giving the ball up 22 times. One thing A&M could have done better was get to the FT line and avoid fouls. The Ags committed 23 fouls to Auburn's 16. This led to a FT disparity (Auburn: 18-26, A&M 6-7). After going scoreless in the first half Tyrese Tanner scored 15 to lead the Tigresses. Sister Tra'Cee added 11, many on putbacks.

Instead of trying to set up our offense I said what the hell let them fly. It turned into a rec center game for both of us coaches. We probably both feel we lost control of the game. You just have to let players play through their mistakes and I had a little bit more of a seasoned team than Auburn has right now. - Gary Blair

Second half

pts in the paint pts off TO Fast Break
Ags 26 10 4
AUTigers 20 14 8

The win kept A&M in first place in the SEC. S. Carolina kept pace by beating Ole Miss. The Lady Vols and LSU stayed a game back by beating Arkansas and Miss State, respectively. Vandy and Kentucky were both upset.

Up Next: @Vandy

Last year the Ags played at Georgia on on Jan 20 at 5PM EST. That day, the SF 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia dome to win the NFC title. Amazingly 4304 fans showed up for the WBB game. I even watched it on TV. This year the Ags play at 1PM CST before another minor NFL clash at 5:25 CST. The WBB game is even on Fox Sports. Neither team has a major connection that I know of to either the Seahawks or Broncos, other than the usual Aggie conflict between rooting for former students and against phony 12th men. Vandy only listed 3554 for last Sunday's game vs S. Carolina. It will be interesting to see what kind of crowd they get for us.

The Commodores use a small, heavily guard oriented lineup now that star center Tiffany Clarke has graduated. The starters at Mizzou were:

  • Christina Foggie 5-9 Sr. G 19 ppg
  • Jasmine Lister 5-4 Sr G. 15.8 ppg
  • Kady Schrann 5-9 Jr G 4.5 ppg
  • Morgan Batey 5-10 So G 5.4 ppg
  • Heather Bowe 6-0 So F 5.8 ppg

The conventional wisdom on Vandy is that you can't stop both Lister and Foggie, but you can beat them if you shut down one. The pair combined for 43 in upsetting Tennessee. Against S. Carolina, Foggie had 23 but Lister was held to 4. Against Mizzou, however, neither shot well. Foggie had 10 points on 1-9 shooting plus 8-10 FTs. Lister had 8 on 3-13 shooting. In addition to the starters Marques Webb (6-1 Fr F), Kylee Smith (5-11 Fr G), Jasmine Jenkins (5-8 So G), and Rayte'a Long (6-0 So F) are likely to play. In addition to losing Clarke (who was only 6-0 but played bigger) to graduation, Vandy has had injury problems for their bigs. 6-4 So C Kendall Shaw was expected to contribute, but doesn't appear in the Vandy stat sheets. So, the Dores are really undersized, but they can get hot and shoot the lights out (.468 overall, .406 from 3). Limiting turnovers will be important for A&M. It will be interesting to see if Coach Blair can take advantage of the Aggie size advantage or if A&M goes small as we did vs. Mizzou.

Vanderbilt's loss at Mizzou puts them on a 2-game losing streak following the Dish 'N Swish podcast interview with Vandy Coach Melani Balcomb, where the interviewer was pushing #WhyNotVandy? Coach Balcomb, to her credit, declined to join this. Last year, the Dores beat the Ags in Nashville, and Vandy's unusual layout with the benches on the end lines makes it hard for Coach Blair to call plays in the first half and to yell at the D in the second half. Low attendance might help there… but it's Vandy's Pink Out Breast Cancer Awareness game, so I can't really root for a poor turnout.