UCLA had beaten all of the Pac12 tourney teams except Cal, and was unbeaten at home for the season. Their win streak in Pauley Pavilion extended back into the 2015-16 season. It was 28 in a row going into Monday night. After making a historic comeback against Penn, the Ags were never in the game against the Bruins.
Kari Korver started what would be an incredible performance by hitting 2 3 pointers in the first 2 minutes, sandwiched around another 3 by Kennedy Burke. It was 9-2 UCLA when Coach Blair called his first timeout. The Ags tried to go from zone to man D, but UCLA was unfazed by whatever A&M threw out there. Meanwhile, the Ags shooting woes from Saturday were unsolved. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Jordin Canada made it 22-9 at the end of the first.
It went downhill from there. No need to recap the details of each painful quarter.
UCLA beat us on ball skills and basketball IQ - Gary Blair in the postgame.
- The specter of fatigue has haunted the team all season. They’ve done a good job of pushing through and denying that it’s been a factor, but it’s been a factor. During the SEC tourney, Andy Landers commented that fatigue affects the mind before it affects the legs. I think we saw some of that vs UCLA.
- Korver ended up leading all scorers with 21 points, all by going 7-10 from behind the arc. The Ags knew ahead of time that she was a deep threat, but kept losing her on defense. The rest of the Bruins were 3-14 from long distance.
- UCLA also outscored A&M in the paint 28-20. Monique Billings got her 12 points inside. Canada had 12 points and 11 assists. Overall, the Bruins shot 56.6% while holding A&M to 31%.
- Curtyce, Danni, and Khaalia each had 10 points. Khaalia only played 22 minutes as she was in foul trouble and Blair tried various small lineups. Hillsman was 5-9 from the field, but the Ags couldn’t get her the ball. This meant that Knox finished with a season low of only 1 assist.
- Alyssa Michalke was able to get a FT to go into the record book as having scored in an NCAA tournament game. Aaliyah Jackson had 4 points in 13 minutes.
- The Pac was looking pretty good when the Ags took the court for the last game of the round of 32. Of the 7 teams to make the dance, 5 had advanced, with Arizona State giving S. Carolina a scare, and Cal, whose inclusion in the field had been questioned, having knocked off LSU. 2 seeds Oregon State advanced to the Sweet 16 on Sunday and earlier on Monday night 2 seed Stanford dominated Kansas State in Manhattan and 10 seed Oregon knocked off 2 seed Duke. While the Ags and Bruins were getting underway, Washington was pulling away from Oklahoma and Cal was getting crushed in Waco. By the end of the second round, 5/7 Pac teams had advanced to the S16. The SEC was left with 2/8: S. Carolina and Miss State.
Season in review
The 16-17 campaign ended with a lopsided loss in the second round. Last year ended with a second round loss at Reed, but this one feels very different. This season will be remembered for overachieving and for a lot of great stories, starting with the seniors:
- How Curtyce Knox waited her turn as the A&M PG and put her name at the top of the A&M and SEC record books for single-season assists.
- For Taylor Cooper sinking threes and drawing up a play in the win over Mizzou in the SEC Tourney.
- For Alyssa leading the freshmen into the stands to thank the fans at the Maroon and White game and the Corps chanting “Mi-chal-ke”.
There’s plenty more. The historic comeback vs Penn was only one of many second half rallies. The win at Tennessee. The emergence of Khaalia, Danni, and Anriel. Jasmin Lumpkin’s key defensive plays.
It was a fun year and I’ve enjoyed another season of blogging about it for GBH.