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WBB: Texas A&M beats Auburn 82-73

Career high for Hillsman

NCAA Womens Basketball: Texas A&M at Tennessee
Khaalia Hillsman vs Mercedes Russell from last season
Saul Young-USA TODAY Sports

The #19 Women’s Bouncy Ball team got their first SEC road win of the season on Sunday afternoon at Auburn. The Ags kept their unbeaten streak vs the Tigers alive but the game seemed closer than the 82-73 final score (perhaps after watching what happened to the men on Saturday).

Coach Blair went back to Chennedy Carter as the starting PG, but the one game without her seems to have worked in getting the other starters more involved. The Ags went inside to Khaalia Hillsman on the first possession and they would do so early and often. The big concern going into Auburn was whether A&M would handle the press that was getting more than 20 turnovers per game. Indeed, the Tigers would outscore A&M in points off turnovers 25-12 and the 18 given up was the second worst performance for the Ags so far this year. But overall, A&M handled their zone press pretty well.

The Ags led early as both teams struggled to stop the other in the post. Khaalia had 10 points in the opening period, but freshman post Unique Thompson countered with 8 as Khaalia struggled to stop her without defensive help in the A&M zone. A&M led by 4 after the first quarter and by 3 at halftime as the teams traded the lead. The Ags shot 57.7% for the first half with no 3 pointers. Khaalia and Auburn’s Thompson each had 14 points at halftime. Carter and Danni Williams each had 6 points. Auburn stayed close by using 10 turnovers to take 11 more shot attempts even though they only shot 35.1%.

The third quarter started close. The Ags would stretch the lead and the Tigers would claw back. It was tied at 40 with 6:37 to go. A&M would go on an 11-2 run to get a 9 point lead helped by a bunch of Tiger turnovers. But Auburn wouldn’t go away and got back to 54-43 with 13 seconds to go. During that stretch Daisa Alexander was hitting jumpers. But A&M would restore the 3 point lead as Anriel Howard found Khaalia for a layup with 2 seconds to go in the third.

The A&M defense broke the game open in the final quarter. Auburn was limited to 2 FTs until Janiah McKay drove on Carter and got an old-fashioned 3 point play with 4:27 remaining in the game. By that time it was only enough to cut a 14 point A&M lead to 11. A&M would get the lead up to as much as 14 points with under a minute to go.

Final score Ags 82, Auburn 73.

  • Khaalia Hillsman had a double double with a career-high 31 points and 10 rebounds. She shot 10-11 from the field, made 11 of 14 FT attempts and had no turnovers and a blocked shot.
  • Chennedy Carter scored 22 points. The official scorer only gave her 2 assists but I’m pretty sure the scorer fell asleep on the assists column after the first quarter. Amy Wright commented on that in the radio post-game as well.
  • Danni Williams added 16 points. Anriel Howard was one points shy of meeting Coach Blair’s goal of having 4 starters in double figures and was also a rebound shy of double figures.
  • Janiah McKay led Auburn with 25 points. Unique Thompson had 22 and Daisa Alexander added 17. McKay and Alexander did most of their scoring in the second half.

Up Next

  • #7 Tennesee Lady Vols
  • 6PM CST Thursday Jan 11, 2018
  • Reed Arena
  • Daddy/Daughter night. What this means I’m not sure, but I guess if you have a daughter you want to go to the game with, keep an eye out for a special deal.
  • TV: SEC Network. Radio 1150 AM/102.7 FM. The radio stations listed at were not right for Sunday’s game. If it’s not on 1150 AM, try 1550 AM.

Tennessee has been through a bunch of drama in the last offseason but it looks like they might be better off. The Lady Vols only had 2 seniors on a team that finished just ahead of A&M in the SEC standings and that went out in the second round of the NCAAs. They had a very highly rated recruiting class coming in but the new kids are getting more playing time than expected. Diamond DeShields decided to go pro overseas after the WNBA draft. Sophomore T’ea Cooper transferred to S. Carolina after getting kicked off the team for getting into a fight with a teammate. Jr. Alexa Middleton, who had started 13 games, transferred to Iowa State.

The Lady Vols have responded by going 15-0 so far, with notable nonconference wins against Texas (the #8 Longhorn’s only loss so far), current #20 Oklahoma State, and current #24 Stanford. By the time they get to Reed, they should be higher than their current #7 ranking. Before the Ags tipped off, the Vols were completing their third SEC win vs Vanderbilt. Starters for all 15 games so far have been:

  • #21 6-6 RS Sr C Mercedes Russell
  • #31 6-2 Sr G/F Jaime Nared
  • #10 5-11 Jr G/F Meme Jackson
  • #0 6-2 Fr G/F Rennia Davis
  • #2 6-0 Fr G Evina Westbrook

Russell and Nared started every game last year and are both likely all-Conference players. Jackson came off the bench last year but can go off. The two freshmen are contributing about 11 and 9.9 ppg. Westbrook is the PG, and gets 4.7 assists/game.

This will be the 5th shot at a top 10 opponent, and the third one to come into Reed. Tennessee also will be remembering that we beat them in Knoxville last year.