This week Coach Blair and Rusty Burson announced the upcoming release of a book A Coaching Life. Given the role of the National Championship team, I suspect that’s why Thursday was a celebration of the legacy of Danielle Adams for Aggie Women’s Bouncy Ball, with fans getting a commemorative bobblehead for coming to the game.
Danielle is playing in Israel, and a message was played on the scoreboard for those of us who came early to snag a bobblehead. She talked about her love of A&M and the honor of being the first women’s basketball bobblehead. It was a bit strange, but sweet.
Yes, I snagged one.
Thursday’s Bryan-College Station Eagle ran a nice profile of our current post: Khaalia Hillsman, whose game is more of the traditional style for a center than Danielle’s. Coach Blair has been talking about how Khaalia and Missouri’s Cierra Porter are the most improved posts in the conference.
Before the tipoff, I was a bit worried that Arkansas would be dangerous. They were 0-3 in SEC play and embarrassed by how they lost their previous game to LSU. The Razorbacks returned several veterans who had beaten the Ags last season in Fayetteville, while A&M has been a young team finding their identity. But RS Senior PG Curtyce Knox and Hillsman set the tone early.
We knew they were going to come out excited and fired up so we really wanted to put the hammer on them early. - Khaalia Hillsman in the post-game
After Knox scored the first basket on a sweet hesitation move, Hillsman went to work. 2 layups in the paint off of Knox feeds were followed by a putback of an offensive board. Jasmine Lumpkin got in on the act and the Ags led 10-2 before the first quarter was half over. Arkansas cut it to 3 with 2:47 to go but A&M stretched the lead before the end of the period. Arkansas’ Malica Monk hit a long desperation heave to beat the buzzer, but that 3-pointer was only good enough to get the Ladybacks within 7.
Ags 21 Hogs 14
The Ags continued to dominate in the second quarter. The only real negative was when Anriel Howard got in foul trouble. Anriel got her second foul and committed a third while Jasmine Lumpkin was at the scorers table waiting for a stoppage to sub in. Anriel had been defending Arkansas’ best player, Jessica Jackson, with lots of help. The A&M defensive strategy was the obvious one that Arkansas will face for the rest of the year: take away Jackson as much as possible and make someone else try to beat you.
Ags 40-28 at half
A&M shot 62.1% from the field in the first half. Arkansas’ 44.4% would not have been so disastrous without the Ags offensive efficiency and the 11 turnovers they committed, with the help of one ref who seemed to be a bit enthusiastic about traveling calls. Khaalia led the Ags with 14 first half points. Tyce, who was already leading the nation with 9.6 assists per game, had 11 assists by halftime.
Have you ever seen a team shoot >90% for a 10 minute quarter? That’s what A&M did in the third. The Ags were 10-11 from the field, with the one miss being a 3 pointer by Danni.
68-41 Ags after 3
Coach Blair had already started using the bench more than usual, but he started the final period with a lineup of 3 freshmen (Rakell Spencer, Aaliyah Jackson, and Jasmine Williams) along with Knox and Howard. Curtyce went to the bench with 8:03 remaining. By the middle of the quarter, the Corps of Cadets, who showed up in a couple of blocks at both ends of the court, started chanting “Alyssa... Alyssa” and “Michalke... Michalke” for their former commander. Coach Blair gave the crowd what they wanted by putting Alyssa in the game - replacing Khaalia with 2:29 left. After Rakell blocked a shot with 43 seconds remaining, Michalke grabbed the loose ball and was fouled. She calmly drained both free throws to get the Ags to 90, and the crowd went wild. The Ags were actually outscored for the quarter.
Final score A&M 90 Arkansas 65
- The win gives the Ags a 3-1 record in the SEC. That puts A&M in a 3 way tie for 3rd place with LSU and Auburn (but it’s still early). Arkansas falls to 0-4.
- Points in the paint: 46-14
- Hillsman finished with 25, which tied her career high, on 11-13 shooting. She also made 2-3 FTs and grabbed 5 rebounds. She only had 2 turnovers and added 3 assists, a steal, and 2 blocks to her stat line. Arkansas didn’t have an answer for her.
- Curtyce got some well-deserved rest in the second half, but not before she dished out 15 assists, many but not all to Khaalia. 15 ties her career high. Blair said that if he left her in she could have broken the school record.
- Danni Williams had a quiet 20 point game. What was striking to me was that Danni seemed more patient on Thursday night, waiting for the openings to come after Khaalia forced Arkansas to collapse. DWill was 8-11 from the field after having some recent games where it took way too many shots to get her double figure totals.
- The game plan of limiting Jackson worked, and there were times when I thought she looked visibly frustrated. She was held to just 5 points. Aaliyah Wilson and Malica Monk took up some of the slack, with Wilson leading Arkansas with 20 points off the bench.
- Florida Gators
- 12 noon CST Sunday January 15, 2017
- Exactech Arena, Gainesville, FL
- TV: SEC Network
Florida, like Arkansas and Vanderbilt, remains winless in SEC play. That may be a bit deceptive because the Gators have already finished with S. Carolina and Mississippi State. Their other two losses were to Auburn and LSU. But Florida was hurt when 9 games into the season, their leading scorer, Eleanna Christinaki, refused to accept a suspension and quit. She subsequently got picked up by Maryland as a transfer. Christenaki was contributing 17.6 ppg and was the main 3 point threat.
But as Coach Blair has been saying, after #5 S. Carolina and #4 Mississippi State, the difference between the other SEC teams is small and any give game can go in an unexpected way. There was a prime example of that on Thursday night when Ole Miss followed losses to Bama and Auburn with a win vs Tennessee. Florida will be playing at home in a new facility, and I’ve always felt like Amanda Butler’s teams are well coached even if she has has some head scratching transfer situations. Likely starters
- #01 6-0 Sr F Ronni WIlliams leads the team and is second in the SEC in scoring at 17.4 ppg. She was ahead of our own Danni Williams before Thursday’s games. Williams also leads the team in rebounding at 7.9/game and in steals.
- #00 5-10 Fr G Delicia Washington has increased her scoring since SEC play began. Her overall average is 10.1 ppg, but she’s at 14.0 ppg in conference.
- #44 6-3 Jr F Haley Lorenzen (12.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) leads the team in 3 point % and contributes in a lot of categories.
- #24 6-4 Sr C Tyshara Fleming (7.7 ppg 6.9 rpg) appears to have moved into the starting lineup after Christenaki’s departure.
- #11 5-10 Jr G Dyandria Anderson 6 ppg is the assist leader with 4.3/game. She was voted by the team as the most improved player last season. She leads the team in minutes played.
Florida’s length could be a challenge for the Ags. The Gators have turnover problems, averaging 21.1 per game, but they also force 18 turnovers/game from their opponents. The Gators are one of the teams we see twice in SEC play; they’ll be at Reed in February.