Coach Blair stayed with the lineup of Hillsman, CWill, Jennings, Walker, and Jones. The Sooners hit a couple of threes to take an early 6-0 lead, but then the Ags went on an 8-0 run to take the lead. Early in the quarter Khaalia got hit in the head and Rachel Mitchell came in. Curtyce Knox had to come off the bench when Jones got a second foul at 4:40.
The Ags were able to get a small lead but OU took advantage of some turnovers to tie it up by the end of the quarter. In addition to Rachel and Curtyce, Danni Williams and Taylor Cooper got some playing time.
17-17 end of one. The Ags had 8 turnovers in the quarter.
The late run by OU led Coach Blair to put JJ back in despite the 2 fouls. Unfortunately JJ poicked up foul number 3 with 8:34 to go in the second quarter as she tried to slap at a ball on a break. Shlonte Allen came in this time. CWill had to go to the bench after turning an ankle as she was fouled going to the hoop. It was a case where the OU defender had position but had her left foot on the restricted area line.
CWill was able to return and hit a couple of shots to tie the game at 28. But then Derica Wyatt hit a very long 3 to make it 31-28. A defensive breakdown and a turnover led to OU going up 35-28 on Peyton Little's first points of the game. The Ags went on a scoring drought in the absence of Jones and the Sooners took advantage by going up 7 at halftime.
37-30 Sooners at halftime.
The story of the half was Jones' 3 fouls. The Ags had 12 turnovers in the half. CWill led the Ags with 10 points before the break. Walker had 9. OU was led by Wyatt's 8, followed by Manning and Kayla Williams with 7 and 6 respectively. The Ags won the rebounding battle 23-18, but OU took 2 more shots and made 4 3-pointers while the Ags were 0-3 from long distance.
Blair went back to his starters to begin the second half, gambling that Jones could avoid another foul. The Sooners were able to get the lead up to 10, but then the Ags went on a run to tie it at 45. OU answered on a nice cut by Ortiz but Williams drew the D and fed Hillsman for a layup to tie it again.
Blair went back to the bench with Danni and Rachel. And then Cooper came in to give CWill a rest when Danni was shooting a pair of FTs (she missed both, alas). After a couple of misses by both teams, Walker gave the Ags their first lead at 49-47 since the first half. The Ags then forced a shot clock violation. A Jennings putback made it a 4 point lead.
Rachel blocked an attempt by Kaylon Williams and drew a 4th foul on the Sooner post after grabbing the miss. Rachel hit both FTs. A Jennings steal led to Taylor Cooper draining a 3 pointer from the left corner.
56-47 Ags after the third quarter. This was a 19 point swing from the 7:07 mark when a Little 3-pointer gave OU a 10 point margin. The Ags held OU to 22% shooting in the quarter.
A couple of buckets by Jennings gave the Ags a 12 point lead and forced Sherri Coale to use a timeout with 8:03 to go. Jennings was called for her 4th foul on a rebound a minute later and was replaced by Anriel Howard. After an A&M timeout with 6:50 left, Blair gave CWill some rest. OU went on a small run which showed up more as rebounds and hustle plays than points, cutting the lead to 8 and leading Blair to reinsert Jennings. A strong move by Jennings rolled around the rim and out. CWill returned, replacing Cooper and restoring the starting groiup.
Hillsman got her 4th foul at 4:21. The K Williams FTs cut the lead to 6 and brought Rachel back in. Rachel made a contribution right away snagging a rebound on a missed 3 from Jones and scoring the putback. She then blocked a couple of shots on the other end. Walker's trademark pull up J made it a double digit lead again at 64-54 with 3:18 to go.
The Ags had a 9 point lead when Blair used his last timeout with 24 seconds left. Derica Wyatt and Gabbi Ortiz hit a pair of 3 pointers to cut the lead to 72-68. But the Sooners had to foul and CWill iced the win with a pair of FTs with 3.2 seconds remaining.
Final Score: Ags win 74-68
Gary Blair, perhaps even more than other coaches, relies on his PG to run the team. Sunday's game was a huge illustration of the strength and weakness of that philosophy. When Jones was out in the first half, the Ags struggled. With her playing the second half despite foul trouble, the Ags eventually prevailed. Jones was that kind of a difference maker despite going scoreless and having more turnovers (6) than assists (5).
- The Ags were led by Courtney Williams with 23 points and 7 rebounds. Courtney Walker had 18 while leading the team in rebounds with 8. Jennings added 12 points, 5 boards, and 4 steals, while Hillsman finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds.
- The Ags won the rebounding 49-39, despite Hillsman and Mitchell only getting 4 apiece in 37 minutes. 4 of Chelsea Jennings' 5 boards were on the offensive glass, contributing to several second chance points. Taylor Cooper and Danni Williams each had 6 rebounds.
- Courtney Walker is one of the best FT shooters to ever play at A&M. But for this season, among players with more than 10 FT attempts, Chelsea Jennings leads the team with a .909 FT%, making 20-22. Curtyce Knox is perfect, but has only shot 2 FTs so far. Walker is at .788 (26-33).
- OU was led by Kaylon Williams who got a double-double (12 pts 13 rebounds) before fouling out. Derica Wyatt had 11 and Maddie Manning added 10. Manning also fouled out. Peyton Little finished with 8. 6 came in the second half. I had a feeling that the Ags really didn't want Peyton to go off on her former teammates. It was the first time this season Little failed to make a 3 pointer, breaking a streak of 15 games going back to last season.
Although Coach Blair used the same starters as we saw vs DePaul, the substitution pattern was quite different. Some of that may have been due to the difference between CWill getting in early foul trouble vs the Blue Demons vs playing more in the regular flow vs OU. But the big difference was in how the regular 4s didn't see the floor much. Jasmine Lumpkin and Anriel Howard each played 13 minutes vs DePaul. Against OU they played very little, 3 and 1.5 minutes, respectively. The difference comes from CWill playing 7 more minutes, plus Taylor Cooper playing 17 minutes vs 4 in the previous game. In my writeup for DePaul, I wrote
Maybe it's random, but the best run happened in the second quarter when both Danni and Taylor Cooper were on the floor, even though neither of them hit a 3.
The Ags were only 1-5 from 3, with Taylor making the one. Danni and Taylor took 4/5 attempts. The other was by Jones. But I wonder whether those two just being on the floor stretches the D a little bit. It will be interesting to see how Coach Blair uses his personnel going forward.
- Arkansas Little Rock
- Tuesday December 22, 12 Noon CST
- Reed Arena
- TV: SEC Network. Radio KZNE 1150 AM/102.7 FM
The UALR game is early to allow the players on both sides to leave for the Xmas break. Consider it a long lunch break.
The Trojans of UALR ended the Aggies season early last year by knocking our girls out of the NCAAs in the first round. The win allowed UALR coach Joe Foley to beat Coach Blair for first into the 700 win club. After Sunday, Blair passed Foley, 703-702.
UALR graduated Taylor Gault, Kiera Clark, and Ka'Neshia Cobbins from last year's tournament team that upset the Ags. Gault and Clark combined for 47 of the Trojans' 69 points in that game, and those three seniors had 21 of their 36 rebounds. For the season, Gault was the leading scorer. This has made it a rebuilding year for Foley, and the Trojans come to Reed at 2-6, with the wins coming against 2-9 Oral Roberts and 6-5 Memphis. Their losses are tempered by a pretty strong OOC schedule that includes LSU, OU, Texas., and the Ags. But they've also lost to 3-8 Tulsa (Tulsa also beat Arkansas, though). On Sunday they went down to Missouri State 64-58 at home, despite having a 7 point lead in the 4th quarter.
UALR does return their second and third leading scorers from last season, and their leading rebounder. Their starters vs Missouri State were:
- 5-4 Sr G Alexius Dawn (10.6 ppg)
- 6-1 Jr F Kaitlyn Pratt (5.5 ppg)
- 5-9 Jr G Sharde' Collins (10.3 ppg)
- #33 6-1 Jr F Keanna Keys (4.6 ppg)
- #2 5-6 So G Monique Townson (6 ppg) is the only player to start all 8 games.