It’s been a couple of days since the Women’s Bouncy Ball team went to Knoxville for a rematch with the Tennessee Lady Vols. In the recap of the Vandy win I talked about how I could envision just about any outcome, depending on how the Vols reacted to a rough patch where there previous game was an upset loss in Baton Rouge. Coach Blair expected Tennessee to come out with their A game. The news out of Knoxville was about practices focused on rebounding and being aggressive.
The Vols did indeed come out on fire, but A&M matched their intensity. The game was played at a fast pace with Tennessee starting in man D, and the Ags in a 2-3 zone. The Tennessee game plan was apparent early on. On the offense they wanted to play fast to try to wear down the Ags, who were visibly gassed at the end of the OT win in Reed. Playing in Thompson-Boling, the Vols knew that A&M couldn’t count on the extra lift from the 12th man. On defense, press to make the Ags - and especially Chennedy Carter - expend energy, and focus on shutting down Khaalia Hillsman and Danni Williams. Later, Holly Warlick and Mercedes Russell would talk about specific instructions for Russell to not leave Hillsman to help on D. Similarly, it looked to me like another defender’s goal was to stay on Williams. Initially it was Evina Westbrook on Danni and later Rennia Davis and Anastasia Hayes had that task. That left Meme Jackson on Carter with Jaime Nared on Anriel Howard. Nared and whoever had Jasmine would be primarily responsible for help D on Carter. Like other teams recently, the Vols would dare the Ags to beat them with scoring from Howard and Lumpkin. That was the plan if the D had a chance to set up. Both teams were running so much in the opening quarter that it it didn’t happen that often.
The Vols needed 4 made 3s to stay ahead of A&M by the end of the first quarter, which saw the lead change hands over and over. Jaz stepped up to the challenge by scoring 12 points in the opening quarter on 4 layups and 2 intermediate jumpers. Anriel had assists on several of Lumpkin’s baskets, but while Carter was still getting 7 points, Howard, Hillsman, and Williams combined for just 2 points on an early basket by Anriel, who went 1-4 in the first. Khaalia was 0-1 and Danni didn’t attempt a single shot.
Both teams kept up the level of play in the second quarter. There was a sequence in the middle of the quarter that reflected the back-and-forth nature of the game. Tennessee turned Carter over at mid-court (I thought it was a foul for not letting her come down with the outlet pass, but the refs were letting things go both ways). That led to a Russell fastbreak basket to retake the lead. Khaalia missed an inside change but then Anriel stole the ball and fed Carter for a ridiculous layup made while falling down after getting fouled. The lead would change hands several more times before the half ended with Tennessee up 45-41.
Jasmine Lumpkin would finish the half with 22 points, which was a career high. Carter had 13. Then there was a drop off to Hillsman with 4, Anriel with 2 and Williams still with no shot attempts. Tennessee was more balanced: Nared 13, Russell 10, Davis and Hayes each with 7, Jackson 5 and Westbrook with 3. Both teams were over 50% in FG%.
The second half started with the Ags erasing the Tennessee lead. A Carter to Hillsman transition basket was Chennedy’s first assist of the night. Mercedes Russell got Tennessee back in front on a putback jump hook from the middle of lane, pretty far from the rim. Danni got her third foul and was replaced by Kayla Wells for the second time in the game. Things got sloppy after that. From 8:18 to 4:04 the score went from 47-46 to 51-48. Carter would give A&M the lead with 2:38 left in the quarter on a fast break. The lead changed hands again and it was tied at 57 after Hayes scored on a breakdown on an inbounds play. But Anriel noticed Tennessee slow getting back and Danni finally scored on a fastbreak scoop layup around Russell. Tennessee’s last shot was off and the Ags entered the final quarter up 59-57.
At this point I thought we were in pretty good shape. There was some foul trouble but we were up 2 with 10 minutes to play. Oh boy, was I ever wrong. It started out close. Russell tied it up and then another baseline out of bounds play gave Nared an easy layup to give the Vols a 61-59 lead. But Carter found HIllsman in the block and Khaalia finished a tough play to tie it at 61. The Vols had identified Danni, playing with 3 fouls, as someone to attack. Davis took Williams into the paint and hit a running floater. Carter missed a layup and Nared attacked the lane on the other end, splitting Anriel and Danni to go up 4. Then Nared baited Carter into a frustration foul.
The Ags were down 4, but Tennessee gave A&M a chance to stay in the game by turning it over 3 times in a row. But the Ags couldn’t take advantage. Anriel finally cut the lead to 2 after a missed J, but this time the Ags didn’t get back on D and Hayes beat several players to lay it up from the left side. Another empty possession led to another Russell jump hook to make it a 6 point game with 3:42 to go. Timeout Blair and the TV showed Carter visibly venting her frustrations. I held out hope while the lead stayed within two possessions… and then suddenly it wasn’t. Tennessee went on a 15-2 run where Anriel fouled out in the middle before Kayla Wells hit a couple of meaningless FTs.
A close game had become a rout. Final Score: Tenn 82, Ags 67.
Despite leading the team with 25 points, Carter came in for a lot of online criticism, and not just from A&M fans. She was 11-27 from the field and had 6 steals. But she only had 2 assists and 7 turnovers. Coach Blair was also criticized for letting the team wear down by not playing the bench. I think there’s some merit to these criticisms but they also tend to ignore the constraints this team is working in. A few years ago the criticism was about wearing out Courtney Walker, and I thought that was more valid because we had experience with Curtyce Knox and Chelsea Jennings to give Walker some rest.
But there are similarities. CWalk was the go-to player who could create her own shot. On this team that’s mostly Carter. Carter, as the PG, is also the one whose fatigue is most damaging in Blair’s offense. She admitted in a presser earlier that there are times when she gets tired, even though the official line from the team is that they can handle it. It’s not going to help Carter’s stamina to play Caylinne for Khaalia or one of the other freshmen (Wells, Jones, or Walton) for Danni, Jasmine, or Anriel. And to pull Carter in a game like the one on Thursday night, you have to think about how to replace her scoring when she was the one keeping us in the game through the 3rd quarter.
So there are basically two options, both of which Blair has experimented with already this season. Sub in Lulu McKinney at the PG or move Danni to the point and play someone else at the 2. Other teams will follow the same script so we shall see how our staff adapts. Fortunately, every team is different and not all can do it the same way as the Lady Vols.
The big picture
The NCAA released another pre-Selection preview. A&M was still slated to host, but was the last one in the top 16. This was before losing to Tennessee, which shouldn’t hurt too much.
The loss drops the Ags into a 3 way tie with Tennessee and LSU for 4th place. We play LSU again in Baton Rouge in a week, after hosting Ole Miss at Reed on Thursday. Vic Schaefer’s Texas A&M-Starkville Miss State Bulldogs remain one of two undefeated teams in the country after winning a close one at Mizzou. The Hail State Bulldogs lead the Georgia variety and S. Carolina by 2 games. MSU and USCe face off on Monday after the Game Hens were utterly crushed by UConn (as most teams are).
Mizzou and S. Carolina made news during the week for the fallout from the game in SC last week. In addition to an on court rumble that led to techs and ejections, the Mizzou AD and a former player for the MUtigers accused the S. Carolina fans of spitting on players and using racial epithets. Carolinians and their AD swear that it couldn’t have happened or that it was a visiting fan. The SEC commish is trying to calm things down. A&M related because a certain former employee took a shot on twitter:
Happy to see South Carolina Women’s Basketball fall to UConn tonight. pic.twitter.com/TkWtAIjpW7— R. Bowen Loftin (@bowtieger) February 2, 2018
At least Loftin didn’t use his alternative @aggieprez twitter account.
I hope I submit this in time for it to post before Sunday’s game! The Ags return to Reed for a game before the Super Bowl. It’s our second in-conference repeat matchup; the third overall.
- Auburn Tigers
- Sunday Feb 4, 2018 3PM CST
- Reed Arena
- Bring a kid to the game day
- TV: SECN Radio: 1550 AM - note that this is different than usually, presumably due to the Super Bowl between the Deflators and the Santa-booers.