The Ags opened SEC play on Sunday afternoon on Daddy-Daughter day. New HC Joni Taylor brought the Georgia Bulldogs to Reed.
Coach Blair stayed with Hillsman, Lumpkin, C. Williams, Walker, and Jones. Georgia countered with their expected lineup of Hempe, Engram, Barbee, Griffin, and Butler. Coach Blair said in the postgame that based on scouting their other games, the Dawgs have been playing man D the majority of the time. But based on last year's game, I was not surprised to see Georgia come out in a zone. This year it was a straight 2-3 instead of the tandem version they used in their win in Athens last year. Either way, it looked like it might be a frustrating day as the Ags struggled initially versus the zone. Neither team scored for the first 2:49, but then Georgia went on an 11-2 run to lead by 9 with 4:05 left in the quarter. The Ags turned the ball over 6 times during that run, and the Dawgs got 6 fast break points off those turnovers.
Coach Blair was already subbing players in and out to coach them up. After CWill hit a 3 pointer to cut the lead to 13-7, Blair went to a smaller lineup moving CWill to the 4 and bringing in Danni WIlliams for Lumpkin. The Ags held Georgia scoreless for the final 3:07 of the quarter, while cutting into the lead.
13-11 Georgia at the end of the first.
After Tiara Griffin missed a 3, the Ags came down the court with a chance to tie or take the lead on their first possession of the second quarter. Khaalia Hillsman kicked a ball out to Danni, who delivered a 3 ball to take the lead. Jones stole the next possession, leading to a Walker jump shot. A Butler miss turned into a fast break jumper for Danni and suddenly the Ags were up 5 before Georgia had scored in the second quarter.
The Ags got the lead to 10 when Danni made a great pass to Rachel Mitchell from the right baseline and Rachel converted the layup to make it 27-17 with 4:52 to go in the half. The Ags were finding open spots in the zone for jumpers and ultimately forced Georgia to abandon it and go to a man D before halftime.
Overall the Ags outscored the Dawgs 22-13 in the quarter.
33-26 at halftime. Georgia's Tiara Griffin led all scorers with 12 points, while Walker led A&M with 8. Each team turned the ball over 9 times. The Ags had 13 assists on 13 made FGs, reflecting how well they were moving the ball.
Coach Blair returned to his starters with Georgia staying in man defense. It looked like the Ags might repeat the slow start as A&M started the half with a couple of turnovers. But Jones stole the ball from Shacobia Barbee and a Walker jumper restored the 7 point margin. The teams traded baskets and misses until a Hillsman block on Halle Washington preceded yet another Walker jumper to give the Ags a 9 point lead at 41-32 with 5:11 to go in the quarter. Both teams were playing intensely on D, and there were a bunch of block/charge calls made on each team. Some looked a bit like flops, and there were a couple of times where each team gave up open shots by flopping but not getting a call.
Barbee cut it to 7 with a strong move to get by Jennings for a layup, but then committed a dumb technical foul by shoving Chelsea in the back while heading back up the court. That put the Ags in the bonus with 4:50 left in the quarter. Walker hit two FTs to restore the 9 point lead, and the Ags stretched it to 17 with 1:57 left in the third. Anriel Howard had some excellent minutes in that stretch, grabbing several rebounds an scoring 5 in the last 4 minutes. At one point Anriel was so active that she intercepted a pass I thought CWalk intended to go to Danni in the left corner.
53-38 Ags at the end of 3.
The first possession of the final quarter had the crowd holding their breath as CWill turned it over and then got tangled up with Barbee as the two ran after the ball. Williams fell on the ball and lay near half court in pain as play continued. Georgia was not able to take advantage of the 5 on 4 situation, as Mackenzie Engram shot an ill-advised air ball from 3 point range. Then play was stopped while Radar Ricke tended to CWill. She limped off the court, but was able to return before the end of the game.
Georgia had started to apply full court pressure at the end of the third quarter. The Ags handled it well at first and stretched the lead to 19 on a pair of FTs by Rachel. Georgia fought back and cut the lead to 11. The Ags got it back to 15 with FTs by Jennings and Walker. The Ags actually went without a FG between a CWalk jumper at 9:18 to a CWill jumper at 3:49. But Georgia was still down 15 at 63-48 at that point.
A 7-2 run let the Dawgs get to within 10 at 65-55 with 2:08 remaining. But Georgia had to start fouling to extend the game. Coach Blair pulled his post with under a minute remaining to get his best FT shooters in the game. Walker, Jennings, and Jones hit 7 of 8 to keep Georgia at bay.
Final Score: Ags win 73-62
- Walker led all scorers with 20 points. She became the 4th leading scorer in A&M WBB history, passing Lisa Langston, who had 1,615 from 1984-86. Walker's 1,635 puts her on a pace to pass Danielle Gant's 1,645 by the end of the week. After that, there is a big gap to Lisa Branch at 1939 and Takia Starks at 1977.
- Chelsea Jennings and Jordan Jones were also double digit scorers with 12 and 10, respectively. Jennings was perfect from the FT line, going 6 for 6.
- Shacobia Barbee led Georgia with a double-double (17 pts, 14 rebounds). Barbee was 3-14 from the floor but made 11-12 FT attempts. Tiaria Griffin had 14 and Pachis Roberts added 13 for the Bulldogs.
- The Ags won the rebounding by 40-33. Jennings led the way with 7, while Khaalia and Rachel each grabbed 6 boards. The Ags also blocked 7 shots.
- The two girls who did the a capella rendition of the Star Spangled Banner were excellent.
- Elsewhere in SEC openers, there was a major upset as Auburn knocked off previously unbeaten #7 Kentucky. That leaves #2 S. Carolina and #23 Missouri as the last unbeatens in the SEC. Mizzou opens conference play against Tennessee on Monday.
- 7PM CST Thursday Jan 7, 2016
- Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, AR
- TV: SECN whiparound coverage (I assume there will be SECN+ streaming of the whole thing). Radio KZNE
This is the second season for Jimmy Dykes as HC of the Razorbacks. Last year was a good start for Coach Dykes, as his team finished 18-14 and got further in the NCAAs than the Ags did, winning their opening round matchup with Northwestern before falling to Baylor. But that team, which had a small roster to begin with, graduated PG Calli Berna and #3 scorer Jhasmin Bowen, while backup McKinley Bostad transferred and F Joey Bailey seems to have left the team. Which means that only 4 of the players on the current team played for the Razorbacks last year.
This means that Arkansas is very young, and has struggled this season. They've already had a 6 game losing streak. On Sunday they got trounced by S. Carolina, Interestingly, they hung with the Gamecocks for a quarter before getting blown out in the second. Expected starters, based on who started vs S. Carolina:
- #00 6-3 Jr F Jessica Jackson leads the team in scoring by a wide margin at 16.8 ppg. She's second on the team in rebounding (7.3/game). Jackson is an All-SEC caliber player who has an inside and an outside game. She leads the team in both blocked shots and 3 pt shooting. She's taken more that twice as many 3s as the next player on the stat sheet.
- #33 6-0 Sr F Melissa Wolff just barely edges Jackson in rebounding (7.9/game). She's the only Razorback to have started all 14 games.
- #35 6-3 Jr-Tr C Alicia Cooley is tied for second in scoring at 7.4 ppg.
- #3 5-5 Fr G Malica Monk (3.9 ppg) was ranked as the #20 PG in the nation by ESPN coming out of North Little Rock HS.
- #21 5-10 So G Devin Cosper (7.4 ppg) is a JC transfer with 3 years of eligibility.