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WBB: Carter-less Ags still too much for UTRGV

A&M goes into SEC play on a 7 game win streak

WBB v UTRGV 2018
N’dea Jones skies vs UTRGV. Others were the stars of this game, but N’dea had the best action shot from my phone.
jimhu’s iphone

The Women’s Bouncy Ball team returned from their Christmas break for the last game of 2018. Chennedy Carter also brought back a case of the flu, so she missed her third start of the season against the Vaqueros of UT-Rio Grande Valley.

Aahliyah Jackson got her second career start and was joined by Shambria Washington at PG, Kayla Wells at the 3, N’dea Jones at the 4, and Ciera Johnson, who was celebrating her 21st birthday. A&M got up early, using a 7-0 run in the first quarter after the score was tied at 4. I was struck by how Jackson was more aggressive on the offensive end in her second start, getting 7 points in the opening period to lead all scorers. The Ags came out playing full court pressure on D, which they would continue for most of the game. N’dea Jones picked up a pair of fouls in the first period, limiting her minutes in the first half, but not before she made a highlight play by blocking a shot and saving the ball from going out of bounds.

A&M would lead 18-11 after the first period and although UTRGV started scoring better in the second quarter, so did the Ags. It was 45-30 at halftime. By the intermission, Kayla Wells would take the scoring lead with 16 and Ciera would already have a double-double. The Ags were doing a pretty good job of finding Johnson in the paint vs the undersized Vaqueros and Ciera was either making the bunnies or getting fouled.

A&M would get the lead to double figures in a third quarter where both teams struggled to score for long stretches. After a layup by Jones on the first possession, the Ags would get stuck on 47 until Sham Washington hit a 3 pointer with 4:17 remaining in the quarter. Meanwhile UTRGV only scored 6 over the same time. UTRGV would score 4 over the rest of the 3rd while Jada Walton suddenly went off for A&M. Walton would score 6 of the last 10 for the Ags, which got her to double figures after 4 points in the first half.

Walton would add 4 more points in the final quarter, while Jasmine Williams would score 7 in the final period on a pair of 3 pointers and a FT. Meanwhile, Kayla and Ciera kept adding to their totals.

Final Score: Ags 84, UTRGV 61

  • The Birthday Girl finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds. It was her third double-double of the season and a career high in rebounds.
  • Kayla Wells led all scorers with 21
  • Walton’s 14 points were a career high. She also had a career high in minutes played. Jackson and Williams each had 7 points, which were also career highs.
  • This was the first time since 2008 A&M was undefeated in December. With two of the wins coming against teams that were in the top 25, that’s not just a reflection of a cupcake schedule. Overall the Ags are 8th in SoS per RPI ratings.

Looking ahead to SEC play

The Ags start the SEC schedule later this week against S. Carolina (see below). Overall, this could be a hard season to predict in the SEC. All of the top teams had significant losses to graduation and/or transfers. Every team has someone who could get a hot hand and lead an upset of a higher ranked opponent.

Standings based on W-L records are pretty meaningless based on the big difference in nonconference schedules. Based on national rankings the chalk prediction for the conference would be something like (W-L and preseason SEC in parens):

ranked

  • #8 Miss State (11-1, #1)
  • #10 Tennessee (10-1, #3)
  • #18 Kentucky (13-1, #7)
  • #23 Texas A&M (11-2, #6)
  • #25 S. Carolina (7-4, #2)

unranked, ordered by RPI (which is also flawed this early ,but what else is there?)

  • RPI 20 Auburn (12-1, #8)
  • RPI 50 Arkansas (10-3, #11)
  • RPI 55 Mizzou (10-3, #5)
  • RPI 84 LSU (8-3, #9)
  • RPI 101 Bama (8-5, #10)
  • RPI 149 Georgia (9-4, #4)
  • RPI 174 Vandy (5-8, #13)
  • RPI 230 Florida (3-9, #12)
  • RPI 254 Ole Miss (6-8, #14)

Note that several ranked teams have RPIs worse than unranked teams. So far, Kentucky is the biggest surprise on the positive side, while Mizzou, S. Carolina, and Georgia have struggled more than some expected. Auburn has a strong W-L record, but their best win is probably an OT win vs N. Carolina.

Up Next

  • S. Carolina Gamecocks
  • Thursday Jan 3, 2019 8PM
  • Reed Arena
  • TV: SEC Network

S. Carolina started the year in the top 10. Their 7-4 record looks much worse than it really is, because 3 of those losses are to current #7 Baylor, #11 Oregon State, and #4 Maryland. The other loss was in OT to Drake on a neutral court in Vancouver in late November. Drake is currently 8-4. The question for Gamecock WBB fans this year was always going to be the extent to which 2018019 was going to be a rebuild vs a reload after the graduation of all-everything post A’ja Wilson. SC has become a much more guard-oriented team on the offensive end. The Gamecocks will host Furman on Sunday but the likely starters on Thursday night will be

  • #2 5-8 So Tr G Te’a Cooper transferred from Tennessee after getting kicked off the Lady Vols, where she made the SEC All-Freshman team in 2016-17. She’s leading the team in scoring with 13.1 ppg.
  • #52 5-10 Jr G Tyasha Harris is the only Gamecock to have started every game this season. She’s averaging 11.3 ppg and leads the team in assists and steals. She also leads in minutes played, averaging 29/g. Harris was a preseason all-SEC pick by the coaches.
  • #3 5-7 Fr G Destanni Harrison was a McDonalds AA and was rated the top PG in this year’s freshman class by some ranking services. She’s only started 2 games as of Sunday AM and has averaged 12 min per game and 2.8 ppg.
  • #35 6-3 Sr Tr F Alexis Jennings started at Kentucky where she played two years. Last year she started every game for USCe and had 6 double-doubles. She’s averaging 9.4 ppg this year and is second in rebounding average at 5.4/g. Jennings was a preseason all-SEC pick by the coaches and writers.
  • #21 6-2 Jr F Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan started 5 games last year when A’ja Wilson was hurt. This year she’s averging 8.3 ppg and leads the team in blocked shots.

Four other Gamecocks have started at least one game this year, so the starting lineup could be different vs the Ags.