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Texas A&M Women’s Basketball upsets #19 Syracuse

The Women’s Bouncy Ball team had a naughty, then nice trip to the Florida Sunshine Tournament. After a terrible Tuesday performance against Dayton, the Ags bounced back to blow #19 Syracuse out of the Rollins College Gym on Wednesday 105-84.

NCAA Womens Basketball: SEC Basketball Tournament- Tennessee vs Texas A&M
Khaalia Hillsman was unstoppable against a different Orange team.
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

The women have played games since the last GBH WBB post. All three were not on TV and I mostly followed them via the radio. The last two were streaming from the tournament host site with a significant delay, but the quality of the stream was actually quite good.

TSA precheck

A few hours after the men’s comeback against Arizona fell short, the women played Southern at the Campbell Center in Houston. This was technically a home game for the Ags, and Blair arranged it so that the team could go straight from the game to the airport for their flight to Florida for the Florida Sunshine Tournament. The goal was to give the team some playing time under game conditions.

This was the expected blowout for the Ags, as the overmatched Jaguars never led. The game was most notable by Danni Williams losing her streak of double digit scoring games.

Final score 81-58 Ags.

A lump of coal

On Tuesday, the Ags faced a Dayton team that came in at 3-6 and on a 2 game losing streak having dropped games to LaSalle and Toledo. That last loss was on Dec 9, so the Flyers were also coming in off a 10 day layoff. Coach Blair had warned the fans that Dayton was better than their W-L record, and they showed it out of the gate.

The game started out pretty close, but Dayton figured out how to defend Khaalia Hillsman and the A&M offense disappeared in the middle of the second quarter, while the Flyers were hitting open threes. The result was a 20 point halftime lead. Unlike the SMU loss, the Ags didn’t claw back in the second half and have a chance to pull out a comeback. Although A&M did improve their D and won the second half, the lead was never under double digits. Dayton set a record for the most 3 pointers allowed by Texas A&M ever, at 12. And the 3pt % was an appalling 54.5%.

Final score 74-57 Flyers.

A shiny Christmas present

The Dayton result revived questions of how bad a rebuilding year this would be, along with the usual “time to fire Gary and bring back Vic”. So having to play a ranked Syracuse team the next day was a huge challenge. Syracuse was picked to finish 4th in a top-heavy ACC, despite returning 4/5 starters from the team that lost to UConn in the finals last year. The Orange came in at 9-3 with 23 losses being to ranked teams. Their loss to unranked Drexel was by 1 point. Their loss to DePaul was on the third game in three days, where DePaul hit 19 three pointers. Syracuse plays a pressure zone defense, which has been a problem for recent A&M teams. They are averaging 9.7 3 pointers per game and had hit 12 on Tuesday. They are averaging 84.4 ppg, while the Ags had not scored that many in regulation all season (We had 15 in OT to reach 98 vs Tech). They had both the height and depth to challenge Hillsman in the paint with a Brianna and Bria Day, 6-4 senior twins.

And that, as they say, is why they play the games.

Coach Blair tweaked the starting lineup by putting Taylor Cooper in to replace Jasmine Lumpkin. Syracuse won the tip and got the first basket of the came on a putback by Brittney Sykes... and that was their only lead of the game. In a fast-paced game, the Ags completely dominated Syracuse, building a 53-45 halftime lead by avoiding turnovers against the press and finding the gaps in the halfcourt zone. Khaalia rose to the challenge with 13 first half points while getting both of the Day sisters in foul trouble. Danni was hot and scored 16 before the break. 53 points is what the Ags scored for the entire game at SMU.

I was thinking the Ags would have to withstand a Syracuse run to start the second half, but instead it was A&M who came out and put their feet on the opponent’s throats. Five different Ags scored before the first missed shot of the third quarter... and Jasmine Lumpkin got the offensive rebound and put back that miss for make the lead 18 points with 4:08 to go in the third. A&M stretched the lead to 27 at multiple points in the final period, and Blair was able to empty the bench at the end.

Final score 105-84 Ags.

It was a historic game for the women:

  • First time to score 100 since 2011. First time ever to score 100 against a ranked opponent.
  • Largest margin of victory over a ranked team since 2011; only the 6th time to beat a ranked team by 20+.
  • Career highs for: Khaalia in points (25), Jasmine Lupkin in points (19), Curtyce Knox in assists (13). Curtyce continues to lead the country in assists.
  • Danni got her second 30 point game of her career. Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman (no relation, I think) called Danni the best player and called it a dominating performance. Anriel’s double-digit rebounding streak ended as she only grabbed 5 in 13 minutes before fouling out. But she scored 14.

I did see the team go into the stands to thank the fans who made the trip on the live stream:

Up next

  • Prairie View A&M Panthers
  • 1PM CST Wed Dec 28, 2016. The start time of this was moved up so people can get to/watch the bowl game
  • Reed Arena
  • Streaming on SECN+ Radio 1150AM/102.7FM

Last game of the year and the last before SEC play starts in January. Prairie View has a new coach, Ravon Justice, who was an assistant at Houston last season. The Panthers are 5-6 overall and 0-6 on the road. A trio of senior guards lead the Panthers in scoring: Alexus Parker, Tori Carter, and Jeronia Allen are all averaging in the mid-teens in ppg.