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WBB: Ags hang on vs Kentucky 74-70

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Lulu gets a surprise start

Carter vs UK
Chennedy Carter vs Kentucky
jimhu’s iPhone

The Women’s Bouncy Ball team lost at S. Carolina … and went up in the polls from 22 to 19. Michigan, Villanova, and Cal also split last week and the Ags and Oklahoma State jumped over them. But the upset that got away meant that A&M and Kentucky were fighting to escape the SEC cellar. Although the Lady Cats came in on a 6 game losing streak, Kentucky Women’s basketball was 3-0 all-time in College Station and led the overall series 4-3.

A murmur went through the crowd when the starters were announced and Lulu McKinney was announced as the starting PG and Chennedy Carter started the game on the bench. Fans wondered whether Carter was in the dog house or hurt… but her big smiles and dancing on the floor in the pregame warmups made that seem unlikely. It turned out to be the first time I’ve ever seen a starter benched for being too good!

I wanted to get my other four players into the flow. I wanted my team to know that they could do it without Chennedy [Carter] always having to create a shot. It didn’t work and that’s something that I wanted to go to [Khaalia] Hillsman early. She scored on our first possession. Danni [Williams] scored a couple baskets, Jazz [Lumpkin] got in on it. I wanted those four kids to feel good about themselves again. Then when I put Chennedy in she was sluggish and wasn’t playing very well. She got into her groove in the second half but it took too long. I think I got everybody confident that she can come off the bench. - Gary Blair in the postgame

I’m not sure whether Blair saying it didn’t work is a typo in the transcript from 12thman.com or if he was talking about Carter’s play in the first half. It certainly looked like it was working early as the Ags moved the ball, got buckets for both Khaalia Hillsman, and Danni Williams in the first 1:10 of the game and led by 7 when Carter came off the bench. The score was 24-118 after the first quarter.

The Ags cooled off in the second quarter, while UK scored the same total of 18 again. Maci Morris had 14 in the half on 5-8 shooting (2-4 from 3). Mackenzie Cann added 8 on 2 3-pointers and a pair of FTs. UK played more zone and was daring Jasmine Lumpkin and Kayla Wells to shoot in order to try to keep the ball from getting to Hillsman. A late jumper by Morris cut the halftime lead to 3.

After the break, Blair put Lulu back in with the starters. UK cut it to 39-38 as Alyssa Rice scored in the paint. After Anriel could only hit 1 of 2 FTs, Cann bombed another 3 to give Kentucky their first lead of the night. Kentucky had started playing a halfcourt trap that was giving the Ags trouble. With Carter back in, A&M was dribbling the ball up court instead of passing to avoid the trap. This not only led to a couple of turnovers, but also kept the offense out of its flow. But a pair of 3 pointers by Danni regained a 46-43 lead halfway through the period. The Cats clawed back and got another lead at 53-52, but Cater answered with a 2 point jumper and a 3 to regain a 4 point edge for the Ags, which was maintained as the quarter ended.

Kentucky looked like it might make another run after Taylor Murray got a layup and a steal. But the D got Rice to miss and Carter found Williams for another 3-pointer. The Ags stepped up their own defensive pressure and the lead was 9 as Hillsman was getting the Wildcat bigs in foul trouble. But then the Ags turned it over on three possessions in a row. Howard was called for traveling as she started a drive down the lane. Carter was called for what seemed to me like a questionable charge. Chennedy beat the trap in the corner and raced into the lane. Morris was inside the circle and jumped to where her feet were on the line as contact was made.

Carter vs UK
Carter was called for charging on this play
Cropped from a SECN+ streaming screenshot

Then Anriel traveled again. In the meantime, Morris and Dorie Harrison had scored to cut the lead to 3 with 5:20 to go. The Ags got the lead back up but Morris was still hitting a lot of shots even though she was the focus of the D. But when she finally missed with 1:26 to go and the Ags up 72-68, Carter got the rebound and the Ags ran the clock. A foul by Keke McKinney reset the shot clock for the Ags, allowing Carter to run the game clock down to 35 seconds before missing a scooping layup. The ball went high off the glass and never hit the rim. Anriel’s 12 rebound kept possession but the shot clock didn’t reset. Blair called timeout to set a play but Carter airmailed the inbounds pass to Danni. Anriel ran the ball down and had to launch a 3 pointer (The shot clock actually started before anyone touched it).

Kentucky rebounded but Morris was trapped in the corner and had to throw it off of the Ags with 16 seconds left. A give and go for Morris was blocked by Khaalia with 13 seconds left. After a foul on Hillsman, Rice was able to make a tough post move to cut the lead to 72-70 but there were only 10 seconds left and Blair called timeout to advance the ball. Kentucky fouled Anriel before the inbounds play to preserve clock. Anriel was only 6-10 from the FT line at that point. The first FT rolled all the way around the rim and fell through. The second went off the rim and the backboard and fell through.

Morris turned it over out of bounds, but the refs called a cheap pushoff on Danni on the inbounds play to give UK a last shot. But with a 4 point lead it didn’t matter unless there was 3 plus a foul. Morris’ desperation shot went off the back of the iron as the buzzer went off.

Ags win 74-70.

  • Khaalia Hillsman led the Ags with 20 points. She was 6-8 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-8 from the FT line. She only had 1 turnover and got a steal and that late block.
  • Danni Williams has been spending extra time in the gym to work out of her shooting slump. She had 19 points on 7-1112 shooting and tied her personal best with 5 3 pointers.
  • The 2 FTs to ice the game gave Anriel Howard another double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds
  • Chennedy Carter only played 29 minutes but had 14 points on 5-11 shooting. She added 5 assists and a steal.
  • Maci Morris led all scorers with 22 points on 9-18 shooting. Afterward, Coach Blair compared her game to Danni’s; a deadly dstance shooter who has learned to score off the dribble. Cann and Rice were also in double figures for UK.

Up Next

  • Auburn Tigers
  • 2PM CST Sun Jan 7, 2018
  • Auburn, AL
  • Streaming on SECN+ Radio 1150 AM/102.7 FM

Auburn is 10-4 after losing to Tennessee in Knoxville while the Ags were playing UK. The Lady Vols had to rally late to keep their unbeaten string alive. The game was tied at halftime, after the 3rd quarter, and with 2:04 to go. Auburn is known for playing a zone press that nobody else uses. They have forced 20 or more turnovers in every game this season; they got 28 against the Lady Vols. Auburn returns 2 starters from last year’s team; Katie Frerking, who dropped 32 at Reed last year, has graduated.

Starters vs Tennessee were:

  • #15 6-2 Sr F Jazmine Jones averages 6.2 ppg. She was a starter last year vs the Ags. Her twin sister Jessica started at Reed last year but is coming off the bench this year.
  • #20 6-3 Fr F Unique Thompson averages 11.3 ppg and leads the team in rebounding. The was a top 100 national recruit who played HS ball in Alabama.
  • #5 5-10 Jr G Emari Jones averages 5.4 ppg. She came off the bench last year. Not related to the twins, I think.
  • #14 5-8 RS Rr G Tiffany Lewis was also a bench player last year after sitting out 2015-16 as a transfer from Clemson. She averages 4.7 ppg.
  • #5-6 Jr G Janiah McKay is the PG and leads the team with 16 ppg and in assists and steals.

The Ags have never lost to Auburn in 9 games going back to 2007.