The Ags went with Khaalia Hillsman, Anriel Howard, Courtney Williams, Courtney Walker, and Jordan Jones. Florida surprised me by starting in man D. Florida's offensive plan early was to get looks from the top of the lane for Haley Lorenzen, who had a couple of early baskets. Both teams started off with a lot of turnovers. It was 9-8 Gators at the first media timeout. The teams were tied at 4 turnovers each. Rachel Mitchell came in after the timeout. The Ags took the lead on as Walker started warming up.
Florida switched to a 2-3 zone and the Ags had trouble keeping control of the ball, allowing Florida to take the lead.
The Ags were having trouble keeping Ronni Williams off the boards. She had 7 boards in the opening quarter, including 5 offensive rebounds. Walker led all scorers with 8.
16-15 Florida after one.
The Ags took the lead on a pair of Jennings FTs and Blair went to a lineup with Williams and Jennings playing together as the 3 and the 4. Jennings rewarded the coach by providing a scoring threat from the left side while Walker did the same on the right wing. This allowed the Ags to go up 31-24 on a Taylor Cooper 3 pointer by the second quarter media timeout. Cooper had come in after CWill hurt her shoulder.
Curtyce came in for Jones after JJ got her second foul. The Gators threatened to close the gap a few times but the Ags were helped by good defense including 3 blocked shots by Rachel.
Ags 36-31 at halftime.
Ronni Williams got her double-double on the opening possession, cutting the A&M lead to 36-33. Florida cut the lead to 1 and got the Ags to commit a bunch of fouls, but Walker and Jones kept the Ags ahead. JJ contributed a 3 pointer and a nice feed to Hillsman. Aggressive play on the offensive boards led to Lumpkin drawing Lorenzen's third foul. Hillsman started getting open and the Ags stretched it to 49-41 by the 3rd quarter media timeout.
Florida hit a couple of threes to get the crowd involved. Chistinaki had been shut out in the first half but turned it up after hitting one of the treys. After the Greek freshman missed a pair of FTs, Ronni Williams got another offensive rebound and cut the lead to 1. Jasmine Lumpkin answered with a baseline drive and drew Lorenzen's 4th foul. The and one made it 56-52, but Florida answered. Florida took the lead on a 3 pointer by Dyandria Anderson with 1:29 to go in the quarter. Jennings got called for a dead ball technical giving the Gators a score and the ball. Williams got a putback to make it 60-56.
Jones made a defensive error going for a meaningless steal and allowed Simone Westbrook to hit a buzzer beating 3 pointer.
Florida 65-60. After the timeout, the Gators outscored the Ags by 12.
The fourth started with the kinds of chaotic play that favors Florida as both teams turned it over. Florida scored first as Ronni Williams drew a foul and hit 1 of 2 FTs. Rachel answered by drawing a foul on Williams and hitting both. Another quick foul call gave Ronni Williams her 4th foul at 8:12.
Westbrook got the Gators their largest lead at 71-64, but Walker got a baseline J and one. But Jennings fouled out on the next Gator possession. Knox gave JJ a brief rest before the media timeout. It was 72-67 Gators coming out of the commercials.
Hillsman cut the lead to 3 after the two teams traded turnovers. Walker cut the lead to 1. The Ags forced a travel. Walker regained the lead. Westbrook answered. Taylor Cooper faked a shot and drove the left side and fouled Ronni Williams out of the game.
It was tied at 79 with 2 minutes to go. Rachel fouled Christinaki on an attempted offensive rebound. 2 FTs gave Florida the lead. Cooper turned it over on the next possession. Florida avoided a turnover as Coach Butler called a timeout right before a steal. Westbrook capitalized to make it 83-79. Walker answered with a crossover pull up J. Timeout 46.6 seconds remaining. Howard intercepted a pass. Timeout Ags. 31.6 to go.
The Ags struggled to get a shot off. CWill missed a 3 from the right corner but the Gators knocked the rebound out of bounds. 11.2 to go. It was a close call... and the refs overruled it and gave Florida the ball. Timeout Florida to advance the inbounds. Florida turned it over. The Ags had a final chance but Jones couldn't get the last shot in the lane to go in.
Final 83-81 Gators.
In the midweek presser, Coach Blair emphasized the importance of taking care of the ball vs the Gators and how Florida wanted the game to be chaotic and disruptive. The Ags got their lead in a stretch where they settled down and didn't turn the ball over. But the Florida pressure led to some ill-advised passes and turnovers became an issue again late in the third and into the fourth quarter. Despite the many miscues, the Ags still fought back and retook the lead in the fourth. When A&M was up by 2 and Ronni Williams fouled out, I liked our chances. Credit Florida for making some clutch plays. But after the Ags had an 8 point lead halfway through the third quarter, this feels like another one that should have been converted to a win.
- Courtney Walker had a game high 31 points. She added 6 steals, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Chelsea Jennings had 11 points, mostly in the second quarter. Jennings fouling out on a night when Courtney Williams struggled didn't help.
- As noted above, Courtney Williams had a rough night in her second start after returning from rehabbing her back. She was 2-10 from the field and turned the ball over 4 times in 30 minutes. She did snag 5 rebounds and get 4 assists and 2 steals.
- It was an uneven game for Jones. She was brilliant at times but turned the ball over 3 times in the final quarter. Leaving Westbrook open for her buzzer-beating 3 pointer was probably a mistake.
- The Ags were supposed to have an edge inside, but got outrebounded 40-35, giving up 21 offensive boards. Florida's Ronni Williams was a huge part of that, grabbing 15 of the boards, 9 on the offensive end, before fouling out. Early on, it was clear that R. Williams was able to physically dominate Anriel, which is unusual.
- This was the first win for Florida vs A&M in the history of the two programs.
- A&M was in 4th place before this game and remains in 4th, but is now tied with the Lady Vols at 5-4 in SEC play. Both are half a game up on Mizzou, Georgia, and Auburn, who are all 5-5. The loss could hurt A&M chances to host when the NCAAs come around unless the Ags can win out from here, or outperform whatever seed we get in the SEC tourney.
- Tennessee Lady Vols
- 3PM CST, Sunday Feb 7, 2016
- Reed Arena
- TV: ESPN. The main one, not 2 or U. Radio: WTAW 1620AM; this is different from usual.
The Lady Vols remain one of the brand name programs in Women's Bouncy Ball, even as they are struggling through a season that has many of their fans calling for changes at the top (to the extent that the internet pitchfork types are representative), even though Coach Warlick has won or shared an SEC regular season or tourney title in each of her first three years. Our SBN brethren at RockyTopTalk are more measured, but even they are frustrated.
Tennessee followed a strech where they lost 4 out of 5 (3 to ranked teams and the other at Arkansas) with two wins against Bama and at home on Thursday vs the Razorbacks. That puts them at 14-8 overall and 5-4 in the SEC.
But despite what passes for struggling in Knoxville, the Vols are a top 25 team, and have some insanely depth of talent. There are 9 McDonald's All-Americans on the Tennessee roster. And playing us will be another one of those cases where a team has extra motivation to show that they are gelling for their run toward the tourney. Probable starters are based on the lineup used against Miss State, for reasons sort of outlined below.
- #12 6-6 Rs So C Mercedes Russell (10.9 ppg 8.8 rpg) is the only Lady Vol to start every game. Russell was a top recruit and had a solid freshman year before sitting out with a foot injury last season. She seems to have recovered very well, but there have been concerns earlier in the year about the ability of the Lady Vol guards to get her the ball in position to do something with it.
- #12 6-2 Sr F Bashaara Graves (10.3 ppg 8.5 rpg) has had a very good career at Tennessee. She didn't do much against the Ags last year, but the Lady Vols didn't need her in a rout of our Ags. Graves didn't play on Thursday vs. Arkansas. She's been recovering from a sprained ankle and is expected to be ready for the Ags on Sunday.
- #31 6-2 So W Jaime Nared (7.8 ppg) has started 12 of the 13 games she's played in. We didn't see her much when we played Tennessee.
- #14 5-9 Rs Jr G Andraya Carter (5.6 ppg) plays the point and leads the team in assists.
- #0 5-11 Jr G Jordan Reynolds (4.9 ppg) started last year against A&M.
The actual lineup Holly Warlick sends out at Reed arena could be very different. 10 different Lady Vols have started 2 or more games this year, and the notable omission from the list above is #11 6-1 Rs So G Diamond DeShields. DeShields leads the team in scoring (13.9 ppg) started 12 games of the 22 played, but has been coming off the bench lately. DeShields, who was a star at UNC as a freshman before bailing out, leads the team in steals and has blocked 22 shots. But she's also frustrated the Lady Vols fans by leading the team in turnovers with 80 in 22 games. She also has taken 90 3s while only hitting at a .233 rate. Whether starting or not, we should expect to see significant minutes from DeShields.
Another big game for both teams, the day after a big home game for the men. I hope we can pack Reed for both.