Having arrived early at Reed to catch the opening game between Middle Tennessee and Florida State, I was in the crowd when the Ags came out to warm up between the two games. As the Ags were going through their shootaround, we started to notice that Courtney Williams was not out on the floor. I was thinking that perhaps she was getting treatment for the back injury, but one of the people I sit with pointed out that her number was not on the scoreboard showing the starters. Checking my phone I saw this news:
Texas A&M indefinitely suspended second-leading scorer Courtney Williams and backup guard Shlonte Allen prior to the team's opening round NCAA tournament game on Saturday.
The school said the suspensions were for a violation of undisclosed team rules and that the players are eligible to practice with the team while suspended.
The second part wasn't in what we heard at Reed (a shorter version had been posted on the TexAgs twitter account).
With CWill out, Coach Blair went with a starting lineup of Khaalia Hillsman, Anriel Howard, Chelsea Jennings, Courtney Walker and Jordan Jones. Missouri State went with the expected lineup of Chvatal, Holt, Gitzen, Williams, and Snow. Whether it was losing CWill on gameday, rust from not playing since March 4, both, or something else, the Ags did not start the game looking like an experienced senior-led team. Walker turned it over on the first possession, and the second possession ended with Jones missing a pair of FTs. Jennings got the Ags on the board with a pull-up J, After a stop, Jones threw an ill-advised pass that was picked off by Kenzie Williams.
The Ags continued to turn the ball over, but fortunately the Ags D was good enough to take a lead into the first break. Rachel Mitchell had some good minutes off the bench and had a layup on a nice pass from Jones before the first media timeout to make it 8-6.
After the break, Anriel got a quick basket off an MSU turnover. But the Ags turned it over on some ill-advised passes, wasting opportunities to stretch the lead. A 3 pointer by Chvatal made it 12-11. The 7th A&M turnover gave MSU a chance to take the lead, but the Ags got a stop and Anriel got a putback off her 9th rebound. Snow cut the lead to 15-13. Jasmine Lumpkin was called for a charge to make it 8 turnovers before the quarter ended.
15-13 Ags after the first.
The first quarter ended with Jones on the bench. JJ came back in early in the second. Kenzie Williams got the lead for MSU with a 3 pointer, but JJ answered with a drive on the right side, drawing a foul on Chvatal. JJ missed the FT to complete the 3 point play, but Jaz got the rebound. Walker scored on a step back jumper and Jennings stole the inbounds pass to give the Ags a 21-16 lead.
But the Ags turned it over as Lumpkin tipped a pass intended for another player. MSU scored. Walker got called for a charge; Snow cut it to 21-20. Ags got a stop. Walker traveled on a drive for turnover number 12. MSU retook the lead. at 22-21 before the media timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Danni Williams made a great pass to Anriel for what looked like a layup, but it was waved off because Danni's momentum created a charge. Jones turned it over again. Walker traveled. But the D kept MSU from stretching the lead.
Jennings broke the scoring drought with 2:16 remaining in the half. Snow tied it with a FT with 1:39 left. It was still tied when Blair called a timeout with 59 seconds left. Out of the timeout, Walker turned it over, but Jennings drew a charge to get the ball back. Walker hit a step back J from the right baseline to retake the lead.
Halftime score 25-23. The Ags shot 42.9% and held the Lady Bears to 25% shooting. But the Ags 17 turnovers in the half, which was 5 more turnovers than field goals. A&M outrebounded MSU by 30-19.
We miss the ones that aren't here but we love the ones who are here.
- Coach Blair to Chiney Ogumwike for ESPN at halftime
Coach had to love Anriel's 12 rebounds at halftime.
When the team is struggling, Coach likes to emphasize going inside. On the opening possession the Ags went inside, cashing in on a putback by Anriel. JJ found Khaalia under the basket to make it 29-23. Hillsman had several buckets inside to help the Ags stretch the lead to 35-26. Snow got 2 back before MSU called a timeout with 6:52 to go in the quarter.
Walker started to really get going with a drive on the right baseline for a falling layup and a foul to put the Ags up 10. CWalk would end the quarter with 7 FGs and 3 FTs and the Ags would outscore the Lady Bears 29-14.
54-37 after three.
MSU opened the quarter with a layup by Snow, but Danni Williams answered with the first 3 pointer for the Ags. The teams played pretty even for the first half of the quarter with the lead hovering around the 17-19 point range. Curtyce played the point for a substantial part of the quarter. Danni got another 3 and Taylor Cooper had a three pointer. It was 68-49 at the final media timeout.
With 2:54 remaining, Anriel grabbed a rebound on a Walker miss. Snow ran into Walker as CWalk was following her shot. Snow's head went hard into Walker's shoulder and Snow went down and looked like she was concussed. She went to the locker room after leading the Lady Bears with 22 points.
Two FTs gave Anriel 9 points for the game. With 54 seconds remaining Anriel got an offensive rebound on an airballed 3 pointer by Danni. She missed the putback, grabbed another offensive rebound, missed again, and then fouled Lexi Hughes. The sequence gave Anriel her 26th and 27th rebounds for the game; the missed bunnies kept her one point shy of a double double.
Hughes would hit a really long 3 pointer to get MSU under 10 before time ran out.
Final score: Texas A&M 74, Missouri State 65.
- Anriel's 27 rebounds broke the NCAAW tourney record of 23, set in 1985 by Tennessee Tech's Cheryl Taylor and tied in 1994 by UNC's Charlotte Smith. Not surprisingly, it shatters the previous A&M records for single games (21 by Michel Tatum vs Baylor in 1985) and tourney games (15 by Karla Gilbert vs James Madison in 2014). After getting back from Reed, I caught a bit of the studio review of the game. When asked how the 5-11 Howard grabbed 27 rebounds, Kara Lawson did an imitation of Taurean Prince's answer to "How did Yale outrebound Baylor". In the postgame, Anriel talked about how March 19 has been special for her because it's the day her mom almost died in the hospital.
- The team's total of 55 rebounds was a season high, and was higher than any game last season.
- Courtney Walker's 29 points put her just 6 points away from tying Takia Starks for the all-time career scoring lead for Aggie WBB. She has already taken over first place in total FG made.
- I thought Rachel Mitchell made some good contributions on defense. She had 3 of the 7 blocked shots for the Ags and intimidated more.
- The 3 three pointers were the first ones the Ags have hit in over a month. The Ags made 3 vs LSU on Feb 18.
- After a shaky first half, Jordan Jones had 3 assists and no turnovers in the second half. She finished with 6 assists and 6 turnovers. She now has 174 assists for the season, bringing her career total to 698. The Ags will need to keep playing for JJ to have a shot at passing Tocarra Williams for second all time at 724. For a single season, JJ's year has already pushed A'Quonesia Franklin out of the top 10. JJ's 2014-15 year is #9 on the list at 186.
- Missouri State was led by Tyonna Snow's 22 points. Coach Kellie Harper said afterwards that she was OK after her collision with Walker's shoulder. Kenzie Williams added 18 and led the Lady Bears with 8 rebounds and 4 steals.
- In the postgame, Coach Blair said that CWill and Shlonte would not be available on Monday against the Noles. He also talked about how he appreciated the crowd and mentioned Ags who had driven back from Oklahoma City, and were planning to drive back and forth to make it to all of the men's and women's tourney games. Good Bull!
- With the first round completed, 7 of the 9 SEC teams advanced to the second round. S. Carolina, Kentucky, A&M, Miss State, and Tennessee won as higher seeds (all but the Lady Vols were hosting), while 10 seed Mizzou beat 7 seed BYU and 9 seed Auburn beat 8 seed St. Johns. 5 seed Florida was upset by 12 seed Albany and 8 seed Georgia lost to 9 seed Indiana. All 16 host teams advanced.
- Florida State Seminoles
- 5:30 PM CDT Monday March 21, 2016
- Reed Arena
- TV: ESPN2 Radio: KZNE 1150AM/102.7 FM. It will also stream on WatchESPN. Since there are 4 games on at the same time, including OU and Kentucky, the Ags may not be on ESPN2 in some areas (I'll be at Reed).
I watched Florida State win the early game at Reed on Saturday. Like the Ags, the Seminoles had turnover problems in the first half that could be attributed to a combination of rust and tournament jitters. For much of the game Middle Tennessee looked like the more energetic team, and it was tied at 38 with 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter. But then FSU went on an 11-4 run to end the quarter as MTSU struggled with foul trouble and also just ran out of gas. The 4th quarter was ugly for the 12 seed as FSU outscored them by 10 to finish off a 72-55 win. The lead was as high as 20 with 3:37 remaining.
Starters vs MTSU
- #23 6-1 Jr F Ivey Slaughter (8.3 ppg/6.4 rpg) Slaughter only played 9 minutes due to foul trouble and eventually fouled out.
- #20 5-11 So F Shakayla Thomas (16.9 ppg/5.5 rpg) usually comes off the bench; this was her first start since late November. Whether starting or coming off the bench, she's leading the Seminoles in scoring. She's an athletic forward who dunks in practice.
- #2 6-4 Sr C Adut Bulgak (12.8 ppg/7.7 rpg) is a Wade Trophy candidate who came to FSU as a JC transfer from the school where Shlonte Allen also played. She leads the team in rebounding and blocked shots, but can also hit from long range. She has 28 3-pointers for the season, including 3 vs MTSU.
- #13 5-8 Jr G Brittany Brown (8.6 ppg/5.5 rpg) had a double-double vs MTSU.
- #10 5-8 Jr G Leticia Romero (11.4 ppg/4.3 rpg) is probably the best known player on the Seminoles. She was an AP All-American Honorable Mention as a sophomore and is on various watch lists this year. She started her college career at Kansas State and transferred after 1 year there. She played on Spain's U20 national team and was MVP of the 2015 European U20 tourney. She led the Noles on Saturday with 17 points.
FSU also got 19 minutes from #3 5-7 Sr G Emiah Bingely, who started 24 games. Bingely the late 3 pointer at the end of the third quarter to really put MTSU on the ropes. They also got a significant contribution from backup post #42 Kai James, a 6-5 Jr who is very large. MTSU players were bouncing off of her when she was in.
One thing that was interesting to me was that Bulgak seemed to be moved around in the defenses instead of camping in the middle. Sometimes the way she came out high allowed the shorter Blue Raiders more success in the paint than I expected. Despite their size advantage, the Noles only had a 40-36 edge in the paint. What really gave them the advantage in the end was transition. FSU had 16 fast break points to just 4 for Middle Tennessee; it was an 11-2 edge in the second half.
This should be a challenging game for both teams. A good home crowd could be the difference.
BTHO Florida State!