Assistant coach Amy Wright said that the S. Carolina game was the first time she had ever seen Senior Rachel Mitchell in tears at the end of a game. The Ags said all the right things during the week about pulling together as a team, but as Coach Blair said in the midweek presser, Mizzou would be a tough matchup regardless of the result on Sunday,
With Courtney Williams still out with the stress reaction in her back, Coach Blair stayed with the starting lineup of Khaalia Hillsman, Anriel Howard, Chelsea Jennings, Courtney Walker, and Jordan Jones. Mizzou countered with Jordan Frericks, Cierra Porter, Sierra Michaelis, and the Cunnigham sisters, Sophie and Lindsay. Jennings was guarding Sophie Cunningham, who came into the game leading the Tigers in scoring. Mizzou played zone.
The Ags got off to a good start by beating the zone down the floor. But after getting a 13-4 lead at 5:48 on a jumper by Jennings, the Ags got stuck at 13 points for the rest of the quarter. Meanwhile, a couple of 3 pointers contributed to Mizzou coming back to tie at the end of the first period.
13-13 end of 1.
Coach Blair had taken Jennings out at the end of the first to manage her minutes, but the Ags struggled against the zone. Coach tried a number of different lineups and Taylor Cooper, Jasmine Lumpkin, Danni WIlliams, Curtyce Knox, and Rachel Mitchell all got minutes in the first half, including combinations where both Jones and Knox were on the floor together. Michaelis hit her second 3 pointer at 9:46 to give Mizzou a 16-13 lead. Danni cut it to 16-15, but then Michaelis hit another three to put Mizzou up 19-15 with 8:20 left.
The action got fast and furious as the second quarter wore on. The Ags regained the lead on a pair of fast breaks in the middle of the period, with Curtyce finishing one and starting the other. But after the media timeout the Ags couldn't stop Cierra Porter in the paint and the big forward tied it at 21 with 3:11 left in the half. This would become a theme. The regular 4 players, Howard and Lumpkin, were having trouble on offense vs the zone, leading Blair to use posts plus a smaller group. With Khaalia or Rachel focused on Jordan Frericks, the 6-4 Porter (not to be confused with her 6-3 older sister Bri) was guarded by much smaller players.
The Ags took the lead at 23-21, but then Frericks got loose to tie it up. After Rachel missed a layup Mizzou had a chance to get the lead, but instead Michaelis missed a 3. Blair called a timeout with 48 seconds to go in the half. You could see him start by talking to Rachel, who had just missed a short opportunity, and then turning to diagram a play for Jones and Cooper. After the timeout, Cooper set up deep in the lane and then ran out to the top of the key to take a pass. Mizzou's defense chased her out to the perimeter, allowing Taylor to quckly hit Rachel with a great pass for a layup with 35 seconds to go. Mizzou couldn't convert at the end of the half as Jones harrassed Doty on the defensive end and Doty couldn't quite get a layup to go down as the shot clock wound down.
25-23 A&M at halftime.
Michalis' 3 3-pointers contributed to her leading all scorers at halftime with 11. Jones led the Ags with 9, while Jennings stayed hot by contributing 8 points.
Coach Blair returned to his starters and seemed to focus, as we often do after halftime, on getting the ball inside. But Jones and Jennings remained the main scoring options. Blair continued to search for a productive lineup and a large fraction of the quarter had Taylor Cooper marking Sophie Cunningham while Jennings switched over to the much taller Cierra Porter. The Ags not only controlled the quarter, but also stretched the lead to 15 with 41 seconds to go. Remarkably, that was on a CWalk jumper, which was her first field goal of the game after hitting only 2 free throws in the first half.
Morgan Stock hit a 3 pinter with 24 seconds remaining off of an assist from her sister Maddie, getting all 3 pairs of sisters on the Tigers into the box score.
52-40 Ags after the third.
It seemed like the game was under control when the Ags still had a 14 point lead after a Hillsman layup with 8:46 to go. Frericks cut it to 56-44, but Anriel answered by banking in a shot from the lane. But then the Ags went into another scoring drought. Early in the quarter, the Ags were able to get the ball inside to Hillsman. But A&M didn't react to the adjustments Mizzou made to shut down that play, and attempts to go inside started turning into turnovers and misses.
Another 3 by Morgan Stock cut the lead to 58-52 with 4:57 left
Rachel picked up her 4th foul with 4:32 to go. Blair left her in the game.
Walker fouled Porter, who made both to make it 58-54 with 3:42 remaining.
Porter blocked Jones and converted a fast break. 58-56. 3:07 left.
Jennings fouled Porter, who hit two FT. Tied at 58 with 2:26 left.
Frericks gave Mizzou their first lead since the second quarter with just 1:56 remaining. The crowd had been growing anxious throughout the quarter. Walker got fouled (on what looked like a makeup call for a no-call on the previous possession) but only hit 1 of 2. Cunningham, who had been held in check for most of the game, made a strong move down the left side forcing Jones to foul on the help D for an old-fashioned 3 point play.
After Jones missed a 3 point attempt, Mizzou was up 4 with 1:02 to go, with the ball. It looked bad for the home team. Mizzou had been really passing the ball around well to find open shooters and it looked like they had gotten another open look underneath the basket. Mizzou was transitioning after the miss. Rachel had gotten downcourt to stop Porter in the paint. Jones had gone for a steal and missed, leaving Michaelis with the ball on the right side of the arc. Cunningham had beaten the rest of the Ags down court and had her arms up calling for the ball on the left side just outside the lane even with the SEC logo. Michaelis hit Cunningham with a great pass as Walker and Mitchell turn to defend... and Sophie put it up too hard and missed the bunny.
Rachel turning to intimidate Cunningham left Porter free to grab the offensive rebound and go back up. But Rachel recovered as Porter tried a turnaround move into the paint and tipped the shot to herself. There was a whistle on the outlet pass, and as Aggie WBB fans all wondered how this would lead to Rachel fouling out, it turned out that it was a 4th foul on Cunningham, who had reached in on the outlet pass. I thought this was a turning point in the game, and Mizzou Coach Robin Pingeton commented on it in the postgame. In their scheme, Porter should have kicked the ball outside to run more of the clock.
With both teams in the bonus, Rachel went to the other end to shoot FTs to cut into the 4 point lead. She hit the first and missed the second. But Mizzou couldn't control the rebound and it went out of bounds giving the Ags another opportunity. Howard subbed in for Mitchell. Anriel set a pick for Walker around the FT line. Jones found CWalk running toward the baseline and Courtney hit the short J to make it 63-62. Timeout Ags.
Mizzou used a timeout to move the inbounds play to the forecourt. Cierra Porter was able to take Howard into the paint and score on an up and under move to make it 65-62 with 16.4 left. Blair called his last timeout to move the ball up. Blair went with Jones, Knox, Jennings, Walker, and Danni. Mizzou made a tactical error by not fouling with a 3 point lead. Instead Porter fouled Walker on a 3 point attempt and CWalk tied the game with 3 FTs. In the postgame, Walker said that the play was designed for her to screen for Danni, but Mizzou switched.
There were 7 seconds left with the score tied at 65. Mizzou ball in the frontcourt off their last timeout. Jones exhorted the crowd to get loud and the fans responded by standing and raising the noise level. Cunningham made the inbounds pass and got the ball back. She drove the left side of the court, getting past Curtyce. But Rachel, still playing with 4 fouls, stepped in and took a charge. Aggies ball. Cunningham fouled out.
The Ags just had to get the ball inbounds and go for OT, but for Curtyce and JJ were not on the same page and Curtyce threw an out pattern while JJ was still in the middle. Since the ball wasn't touched, Mizzou got the ball under the basket with 3 seconds left. Mizzou tried to throw a bounce pass across the baseline to a cutter, but JJ deflected the ball, grabbed it, and heaved it toward midcourt as the clock ran out.
65-65 end of regulation.
The Ags went with Mitchell, Jennings, Walker, Knox, and Jones to start the OT. Frericks scored first on a putback after Rachel got another block. Waker answered with a jumper. Mizzou turned it over and Doty was called for a block as Walker made a shift to the left as she sprinted down court dribbling on the transition. 2 FTs gave the Ags the lead. Frericks tied it again driving the right side. Rachel hit a turnaround in the lane to make it 71-69. Porter went inside and tied it again. After Rachel missed, Porter gave Mizzou the lead again. Walker tied it at 73 on a drive and Blair used his OT timeout with 1:38 left.
After the timeout Porter hit a medium range jumper to retake the lead. On the next possession, Doty fouled Jennings trying to intercept a kickout pass from Rachel. Jennings hit the first but missed the second. Frericks fouled Walker on the long rebound (which Jennings had grabbed in the left corner as the whistle blew). Walker made it a 3 point possession by hitting both FTs. That put the Ags up 76-75.
Mizzou got the ball to Frericks in the lane, but the pass was just a bit too far away from her and she lost the ball over the end line. Walker missed a jumper from the right side but Jennings had excellent rebounding position and Doty fouled going over Chelsea's back. Jennings made it a 3 point lead with 28.8 left. Timeout Mizzou. Mizzou was able to spring Frericks for a quick score. But with less than 30 seconds remaining, the Tigers had to foul. The Ags were able to play keep away to run the clock down to 12.1 seconds remaining before Doty fouled out and sent Walker back to the line. Walker made it a 3 point lead.
Unlike Mizzou at the end of regulation, the Ags fouled to prevent a 3 point opportunity. Lindsay Cunningham missed the front end and then had to miss intentionally. The Ags got the rebound. Mizzou fouled Jones, who made the first and missed the second.
Final Score Ags 81, Mizzou 77 in OT.
This was another hard-fought entertaining game. Fortunately, it didn't end in heartbreak for the Ags; Mizzou probably feels like they let one get away. The Tigers deserve a lot of credit for how they fought back from a double digit deficit on the road. It would have been nice to have a larger crowd for two ranked teams, but perhaps it's too much to expect with the success the men are having. Two weeknight trips to Reed in the same week can be too much.
- Jennings led the Ags with 22. It was her second game with 20+, and the third game in a row that she scored in double digits. Jones and Walker each had 20. Jones played all 45 minutes of regulation and OT. Walker had a comeback within the game. She only had 5 points before the last minute of regulation. She had 5 points in the last minute of the 4th and 10 points in OT. 12 of her 20 came from the FT line.
- Jones got her 100th assist for the year. That makes her career total 624, which puts her just 3 behind Aqua Franklin's 627 for third all time. Toccara Williams has 724 and Lisa Branch is the all-time leader at 795.
- Jordan Frericks led all scorers with 23 and had 12 rebounds to make it a double-double. Cierra Porter also had a double-double with 20 points and 10 boards. Sierra Michaelis had 11, all in the first half.
- Mizzou outrebounded the Ags 45-36. They got 17 offensive boards, which became 19 second chance points vs 11 for A&M.
- I thought the Ags got lots of good performances in areas that don't show up in the stats from the bench. Taylor Cooper's D on Sophie Cunningham stood out to me, along with a couple of nice assists that do show up in the stat line. Coach Blair talked about how, aside from the one bad play at the end of regulation, Curtyce Knox gave the Ags valuable minutes. That was Curtyce's only turnover against 4 assists and a steal. I thought Rachel Mitchell had a nice game, and the way Coach Blair kept her in with 4 fouls suggests that he agreed. Rachel's 5 blocked shots put her at 103 for her career, 7 behind Danielle Gant on the career list. For the season she's at 32, which means she only needs 5 more to tie Kelly Cerny for the #10 spot on the season list.
- The upsets keep coming in the SEC. While the Ags were staving off an upset bid by Mizzou, #10 Mississippi State was getting upset by unranked Georgia, and #9 Kentucky was in the middle of what became a loss to Ole Miss.
- 6PM CST Thursday Jan 28, 2016
- Foster Auditorium, Tuscaloosa, AL
- Streaming: SECN+ Radio: KZNE 1150 AM/102.7 FM
The Ags get a Bye this weekend and then hit the road again to face Alabama. The extra rest could be important in Courtney Williams' recovery, but regardless of Williams' rehab, Chelsea Jennings will start when the Ags return to the court.
Coach Kristy Curry is in her third year in Tuscaloosa, and the Tide remains a young team with just one senior starter. In addition, the leading scorer from last year, Jr Ashley Williams, is out with a medical redshirt. Bama fell to 13-6 overall and 2-4 in SEC play, losing to #22 Florida on Thursday. Their conference wins are against LSU and Georgia. 4.5 probable starters have started all 19 games this year. The fifth has started 17.
- #11 6-0 So F Hannah Cook (13.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg) is the leading scorer this year. She likes to shoot 3s based on 121 of her 196 FG attempts coming from behind the arc. She's made 48 for a .397 3FG%.
- #15 5-8 So G Meoshonti Knight (10.1 ppg 3.9 rpg) leads the team in steals with 34. She had a career high 23 vs Florida on Thursday.
- #01 6-0 So F Quanteria Bolton (9.4 ppg 4.2 rpg) came off the bench last season but has started 17 games and played in every game this year. She had 11 against Florida.
- #22 5-7 So G Karyla Middlebrook (9.2 ppg 3.8 rpg) is the point guard. She started every game as a freshman and every game so far this season.
- #13 6-2 Sr F Nikki Hegstetter (8.1 ppg 7.3 rpg) has been a starter since the end of her freshman year. She leads the team in rebounding. She does most of her damage inside, but has shot 15 3s this season, making 3.
The Tide seem to play aggressively but have trouble taking care of the ball. Bama has to play at Vandy on Sunday before hosting the Ags next Thursday. They had 21 steals vs the Gators but turned it over 29 times. They are averaging 10.4 steals/game and 16.3 turnovers.
It will be important to not look past the Tide to the rematch at Reed against S. Carolina.