After a thriller at home against Vanderbilt, the Ags hit the road to face Dawgs and Cats in a pair of games.
For the second game in a row, the Ags got off to a slow start where only Curtyce Knox kept a first half hole from being even deeper. I’m sure Georgia Head Coach Joni Taylor and her staff spent some time with the replay of Vandy and saw that the way to defend this edition of Texas A&M is to keep Hillsman from getting position inside where Knox could find her and challenge the rest of the team to score before adjusting to plan B. After a difficult night on Monday, leading scorer Danni Williams was similarly off on Thursday night, going 0 for 7 from the field and scoring only 2 on FTs in the first half. Georgia also started slowly but found their offense midway through the first quarter, going on a 12-0 run while the Ags combined 5 turnovers with 4 misses before a pair of FTs from Anriel Howard made it 20-8. A steal and layup by Knox made it 20-10 after the first quarter, but the Ags fell further back in the second, allowing the Lady Dawgs to go up by as many as 19 before going into the locker room down 40-23.
Against Mizzou, the Dawgs lost the game in the third quarter, and Georgia fans must have been getting nervous when A&M came out after intermission and cut the lead to 10 halfway through the 3rd. The Ags would get it down to 5 and have several opportunities to cut the lead to 3 as Anriel warmed up in front of friends and family from her nearby home town. But the Ags squandered 3 stops with 3 turnovers before Haley Clark found Simone Costa for a jumper to stretch the lead back to 7, which was the gap when the quarter ended.
Another turnover to start the final period turned into a 3 pointer, and Georgia got the lead back up to 13 before the Ags scratched back to within 6 before having to foul to stretch the clock. Georgia hit enough FTs and the Ags couldn’t cut into the lead. An off target pass turned into a 5th foul on Anriel.
Final score 69-59.
This was a frustrating game to watch. I felt that the Ags have better talent, but that the team may have been running on fumes after only playing 6 against Vandy. It also seemed like Anriel and Danni may have been pressing themselves in the first half; Danni to shake off the performance on Monday, and Anriel because of the 40 friends and family she had in the stands, combined with her saying that she took it personally that Georgia didn’t recruit her. 4 starters ended up scoring in double figures and it was a career-high 17 for Curtyce. But I’m sure she and the team would trade double doubles and career highs for taking better care of the ball: Georgia scored 24 points off 25 turnovers. Of course, Georgia turned it over 19 times themselves, leading to 22 A&M points. But A&M has generally been better at taking care of the ball this season, and for both teams the turnovers seemed less like in your face defense than unforced (or lightly forced) errors.
- Kentucky Wildcats
- 1 PM CST Sunday January 8, 2017
- Memorial Coliseum, Lexington Kentucky
- TV: SEC Network Radio: 1150 AM/102.7 FM
While the Ags were playing at Georgia, #24 Kentucky was hanging on against Mizzou. The Cats built a big first half lead and ultimately won 64-62. Looking at the play by play, it seems like the game wasn’t as close as the final score might suggest; Mizzou scored the last basket on a second chance bucket with 1 second left.
The A&M bench has had limited playing time this season, and with Caylinne Martin redshirting the Ags only have 10 scholarship players, plus walkon Alyssa Michalke on the bench. Kentucky has similar depth issues. They only brought in one freshman recruit, PG Jaida Roper, to a team already depleted by graduation and transfers. Coach Matthew Mitchell has added two walk-ons, 5-8 Freshman G Paige Poffenberger and 5-11 Junior G Rachel Potter, and used a scholarship on a third, 6-0 F Lashae Halsel. Poffenberger is averaging over 7 minutes per game. But despite the depletion, UK returns the very strong core of the team that blew the Ags out at Reed last year. Expected starters (stats don’t include Thursday’s game).
- #25 5-10 Sr G Makayla Epps was an All-American last season and is on various watch lists for player of the year nationally. She’s quick, strong, and can play point, shooting guard, or small forward. She leads the team in minutes, points per game (16.8), and assists.
- #13 6-3 Sr F Evelyn Akhator (13.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg) was a Juco transfer last year and made the All-SEC second team. She started every game and led the team in rebounds and blocked shots. She leads in both categories this year so far and also is the leader in steals. Last year’s performance vs the Ags got her SEC player of the week honors.
- #4 6-0 Soph. G Maci Morris (12.3 ppg) was on the SEC All-freshman team last season, starting every game. She fouled out at Reed last year, but dropped 10 points on us before leaving. Morris can be deadly from 3 point range.
- #24 5-6 Soph. PG Taylor Murray (14.0 ppg) was a backup last season. She may be the fastest player for the Cats and her 23 points helped keep UK in the game in the SEC opener at Tennessee.
- #45 6-3 Jr C Alyssa Rice (3.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
Of the two road games, UK was going to be the tougher opponent all along. But that’s reminiscent of the Dayton-Syracuse games in December, so maybe the Ags can regroup again.