Both teams were coming off close losses. The Ags had been unable to close out Miss State on Sunday, while the GameHens were shocked by Missouri. Although Senior Day at Reed was Sunday, the Thursday night game would be the final home game of the regular season, with the chances for the Ags to get a top 4 SEC seed and to host the NCAAs looking slim. The game was a late start as the second half of a WBB double header on the SEC network.
As the teams took the court, we found out that Alaina Coates injured her ankle against Mizzou and didn’t even make the trip to College Station. Without Coates, Dawn Staley made an additional adjustment to her starting lineup by replacing her outstanding post with a second point guard. There had been discussion among USCe fans about whether the junior Bianca Cuevas-Moore should start in place of freshman Tyasha Harris. Staley started with both.
Khaalia won the tip, but the Ags had their first turnover of many on the opening possession. S. Carolina jumped out to an early lead, but Curtyce and Danni went 4/5 on 3 pointers and the Ags took the lead before A’ja Wilson scored with 1:41 left. Neither team scored again in the period
Gamecocks 19, Ags 18 after the first
Khaalia got the lead back right away to start the second quarter and the crowd of 6,402, including a large turnout by the Corps, started to get loud. After a couple of rough scoring outings, Anriel was scoring and hadn’t picked up any fouls. A&M led by 3 a couple of times, and was up 1 at 30-29 at the media timeout with 4:22 remaining.
Then it all fell apart.
The Ags seemed surprised when Staley put on a full court press after the timeout. Turnovers started a 10-1 run where A&M couldn’t score a FG until Khaalia got a nice assist from Cooper to break the drought. The teams traded baskets with the Hillsman scoring last.
Gamecocks 41, Ags 35 at half.
A’ja Wilson had a double-double by halftime, with 12 points and 10 boards. S. Carolina got a valuable contribution from freshman sub Mikiah Herbert Harrigan who had 8 points before the intermission (She averages 4.3 per game).
The Ags were outrebounded 18-12, had 8 turnovers, and allowed S. Carolina to shoot 61.3%. But it still felt like the Ags were still within striking distance only down 6, given the way the team has rallied in other games.
Unfortunately, the hole got deeper to start the second half. S. Carolina began the third period with a 7-0 run and it got worse from there. A&M would only score 6 points in the period. By the time the third quarter was over, the Ags were down 19.
Gamecocks 60, Ags 41 after 3 quarters
S. Carolina was in complete control. With the large deficit, the Ags tried a variety of defenses to neutralize the way the Gamecocks were scoring in the paint, not just on Wilson’s post moves, but also in giving up drives from other players. As A&M packed the paint, Cuevas-Moore hit 3 pointers to keep the lead around 20 points. By the end, both teams emptied their benches to put this one behind them.
Final score: 80-64.
This is one of the first games all year where we just got outclassed. I'm not that down on my team I'm just high on South Carolina. They've earned everything they've got. - Gary Blair in the postgame
Earlier in the week, Coach Blair had talked about the team’s preparation for S. Carolina with the assumption that Coates would play. While Staley will be happy to have her all-SEC post back for Senior Day vs Kentucky, she also talked about how the adjustment without Coates involved playing faster and giving Wilson more freedom of movement in the paint. The press was the most obvious reason for the bad loss: the 18-7 margin in points off turnovers was the majority of the final difference. But not the whole thing. S. Carolina was better in transition, better on offense, and better on defense.
- A’ja Wilson led everyone with 21 points and 15 rebounds. She blocked 3 shots and had 3 steals in 36 minutes on the floor. What’s scary is that her contribution was bigger than those numbers. She showed why she’s a likely #1 pick for the WNBA next year ... and she’s just a junior this year. It seemed to me that her defensive presence affected a high percentage of A&M’s shots, and contributed to some bad decisions in breaking the press, as the Ags were rushing to find holes in the D before she was set up.
- 3 other Gamecocks finished in double figures for scoring, led by Cuevas-Moore’s 16. Her 6 steals were a big part of frustrating the Ags.
- A&M was led by Curtyce Knox with 19 points. Tyce also had 10 assists to take over the all-time single season record for both A&M. She’s now 4th all-time for the SEC. Khaalia, Danni, and Anriel all scored in double figures.
- 15 turnovers. Sigh.
- Ole Miss Rebels
- 4PM CST Sunday February 26, 2017
- The Pavilion at Ole Miss, Oxford, MS
- TV: SEC Network Radio 1150 AM/102.7 FM
It will be Senior Day at Ole Miss. Coach Matt Insell is a young coach that Gary Blair says a lot of nice things about. He’s from a coaching family and is in his 4th year at Ole Miss. Building up Ole Miss hasn’t been easy. They were 10-20 last year (2-14 in the SEC) and their expected starter at PG was kicked off the team for a DUI and is now sitting out a transfer year at Eastern Kentucky.
Likely starters (stats don’t include Thursday’s game)
- #11 6-3 Sr F Shequila Joseph (4.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
- #50 6-4 Grad Transfer F Taylor Manuel (8.6 ppg 4.3 rpg) played HS WBB in Missouri, started her college career at Purdue in 2013, and transferred to Loyola Chicago after her freshman year. After graduating she was immediately eligible to play this season. Although listed as a forward, Manuel is the post for Ole Miss. She and backup freshman Shelby Gibson are both surprisingly agile wide bodies who are tied for the team lead in fouling out (4x each).
- # 20 5-8 So G Madinah Muhammad (13.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
- #23 5-10 Jr G Shandricka Sessom (12.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
- #05 5-9 Sr G Erika Sisk (8.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.9 apg)
On Thursday night, Ole miss gave up 100 points to Mizzou, losing 100-65. A&M should be favored, but every now and then, Ole Miss has surprised some teams. They knocked off a ranked Oregon team in the nonconference, and shocked Tennessee in January. The Ags have to avoid fatigue and a letdown to prevent the losing streak from continuing.
The loss to S. Carolina, combined with Kentucky beating Miss. State in OT and Mizzou winning, means that the Ags are tied for 5th in the SEC with Tennessee. The Lady Vols finish in Starkville against MSU. If we stay tied after Sunday, A&M has the tiebreaker with Tennessee. But either way, the precious double bye in the SEC tourney has gone bye-bye.