Despite the late losing skid, the Ags first round bye allowed them to rest until the last game of Thursday’s schedule in Greeneville, SC. On Wednesday, Florida extended the Arkansas women’s losing streak to 11 in a row, advancing to face A&M in round 2. The Ags had beaten the Gators twice in the regular season, but neither team was easy, and Florida has been playing well down the stretch.
Both teams started slowly on offense at least in part due to packed in zone defenses. By the midpoint of the first quarter the score was 3-2 Florida. The Ags started 1-10. Fortunately, Florida wasn’t burning it up either. A burst of points in the last couple of minutes gave A&M the lead at 8-7. Danni scored a 3 on an inbounds play to complete a 9-0 run to end the quarter
Ags 11, Florida 7 after the first.
Florida rallied to tie it up at retake the lead to start the second, as the Ags struggled to score. Blair sent Danni to the bench with a bit over 3 minutes remaining in the half. Cooper scored the first points of the quarter after that by hitting a 3 to break a 12-0 run. Curtyce drew a foul get a couple of FTs. The Ags were able to get a final shot to go when Coop faked a 3 and hit Khaalia inside. So, despite only scoring 2 FGs and 7 points, the teams went into the locker room with Florida only up by 3.
Gators 21, Ags 18 at halftime.
Danni led the Ags with 7 points, but took 11 shots to make 3. Khaalia had 6. It looked to me like the Ags were overthinking on offense, leading to ineffective ball movement against the zone. There were several times when Khaalia probably could have just gone up for a shot instead of looking to pass or make a move, but the guards were also slow in making decisions.
Florida stretched the lead to start the second half as the Ags lost Ronni WIlliams on D a couple of times. But then A&M went on a 9-0 run to take the lead. Florida retied it at 29, but then Anriel got her first bucket on a steal and a fast break. Khaalia got a putback to get a double-double with just under 4 minutes left in the quarter. The Ags kept going inside to Khaalia. Cooper drew a charge and hit a 3 on consecutive possessions to give A&M a 40-31 lead. Danni missed a long buzzer beater to end the quarter.
Ags 42 Gators 34
Cooper opened the final period with a 3 from the top of the circle. The Ags stretched the lead to xx bfore midway in the quarter as Gator coach Amanda Butler urged her charges to dig deep. Ronni Williams cut the lead to 10, but Anriel got an and one play that drew the third foul on the Gators star. Florida tried full court pressure but didn’t have the personnel to cause as many problems in the back court. Khaalia got the lead back to 59-44 with under 3 minutes left. Danni made it 61-46 with 2:11 left. Florida had to intentionally foul with 2:02 left. Having Ronni Williams get her 4th by fouling Danni Williams was probably not the optimal version of the strategy.
Florida burned their last timeout with 1:47 left. Blair replaced Howard with Lumpkin on offense to raise the FT% and brought Lashes back in for defense. Butler called off the foul approach in the last 1:45 or so and Blair emptied the bench at the end.
Final score: Ags 67, Gators 48
- Khaalia led all scorers with 24. 18 came in the second half. She also led everyone in rebounds with 11. It was her 13th double-double of the year. Danni was the only other Ag in double figures with 17, but Tyce, Coop, and Anriel had 9, 9, and 8 points, respectively. Anriel grabbed 10 rebounds.
- Curtyce had 9 assists. It’s amazing to realize that this caused her assist/game average to go down.
- After a dismal 23.3% (7-30) in the first half, the Ags were both more aggressive and more patient to get better looks after the break. The result: 16-26 (61.5%) FG% after the intermission. The FG% was helped a lot by Khaalia going 7-7 in the second half, but everyone was taking better shots.
- Ronni Williams led the Gators with 18. This was below her season average and the Ags did a good job of preventing R. Williams from taking over the game; the A&M defense tried to collapse on her whenever she got the ball. Delicia Washington had 10 and Haley Lorenzen added 8.
- Despite Hillsman’s big game, Florida outscored the Ags in the paint 32-26. A&M hit some key 3-pointers. Cooper was 3-6 from behind the arc.
- Quarterfinals vs Missouri
- 7:30 PM CST
- Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, SC
- TV: SEC Network; Radio 1150 AM/102.7 FM
Missouri has a 6 game winning streak going, including an upset of top seed S. Carolina on Feb 19. The only time we played during the season, the Ags had a chance to win in regulation but gave up a late basked to send the game in to OT, where Mizzou prevailed despite A&M scoring 20 in OT.
Coach Robin Pingeton was named SEC coach of the year for leading the Tigers to their 21-9 record and 3rd place finish in the conference. The Cunningham sisters are playing very well, with younger sister Sophie making the All-SEC first team (Hillsman, Williams, and Knox were second team all-SEC for the Ags).
Sophie Cunningham can take over a game, but there is plenty of firepower in the supporting cast. It will be interesting to see how the teams adjust from the last meeting. For A&M, the question of fatigue lingers, especially with no off days during the conference tourney.
The Ags will be the last game of the day again. Earlier on Thursday, Georgia beat Auburn, LSU took out Ole Miss, and the big upset was Tennessee blowing a 10 point lead in a span of less than 6 minutes in the third quarter. Calling it an upset is true based on seeds, but Bama has now beaten the Lady Vols 3 times in a row, going back to last season.
That means that before the Ags play Mizzou, Georgia will play S. Carolina, Bama takes on Kentucky, and LSU plays Miss State. The winner of A&M-Mizzou gets the winner of LSU-MSU.