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WBB: Comeback vs DePaul sends the Ags to the Sweet Sixteen

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Game ball to Anriel Howard

NCAA 2018 DePaul vs A&M
Things weren’t going well for the Ags in the first half
jimhu’s iPhone

The Women’s Bouncy Ball hosted the #5 seed DePaul Blue Demons in a second round game at Reed Arena on Sunday. The Ags had taken care of Drake on Friday, while DePaul had advanced by eliminating OU. In Saturday’s pressers, the players and coaches had described the contrasting styles of the two teams: Coach Blair likes to control every play, while DePaul coach Doug Bruno likes to give his players much more freedom to just play. They described him as giving them the greenest of green lights to shoot. Blair and Bruno are old friends, but Bruno had a good description of how knowing each other well doesn’t translate into an advantage either way:

He’s got Carter and we don’t - DePaul coach Doug Bruno

The fans were excited as the game started with Danni Williams hitting a baseline jumper off the opening tip. But after misses by both teams, DePaul answered with a 3 pointer by Marte Grays and the Ags would not hold the lead again for a long time. DePaul would lead by as many as 7 in the first quarter, but the Ags cut it down to a 2 point lead by the first break.

The second quarter was a disaster for A&M. At one point I looked up and we were shooting 13% from the field as the team was getting chances but rushing their shots. The Ags would get that up to 32% by the end of the half, but the team wasn’t getting stops. During this time Anriel Howard was keeping A&M in the game, playing like a woman possessed. Anriel would have 13 points and 8 boards in the first half. Meanwhile Carter was held to 5 points on 2-9 shooting, Williams had 4 and Khaalia Hillsman was held (sometimes literally) to just 1 FG. There were times when I thought Khaalia was too hesitant in going up to draw fouls. In particular there was a 3 second call when she held onto the ball too long looking to dish. Jasmine Lumpkin’s shooting woes continued from the Drake game, going 0-5. Meanwhile DePaul had 14 assists on 16 made baskets. 7 of these were 3 pointers leading to to a 43-28 halftime lead for the Blue Demons.

The second half didn’t start too auspiciously as Chante Stonewall burned the Ags for a quick layup on the first possession to give DePaul a 17 point lead. Another layup by Marte Gray countered a fast break layup by Carter with 8:15 to go in the 3rd. The classic comeback strategy is to work on intermediate goals, like getting the gap to single digits, and the Ags answered with a 10-0 run to get the lead to 7 by the middle of the quarter. But Tanita Allen hit a 3 pointer after a DePaul timeout to briefly subdue the crowd. The Ags would cut the lead to 6 as Carter started to heat up and the rest of the team started drawing fouls to get to the FT line. But each time we closed the gap, DePaul would make a clutch shot to get the lead back to double digits. A late basket by Kayla Wells cut it to 10 as the 3rd quarter ended. But the crowd was back to believing.

Blair had started mixing two lineups earlier in the game. We had already mostly abandoned the zone D as too vulnerable to the 3 point shooting. The Ags started playing more man D with a small lineup using Lumpkin in the post with Kayla Wells in place of Hillsman. Hillsman would come back in for offense. This sub pattern became more pronounced in the 4th quarter.

DePaul opened the final period by extending the lead to 15 with 8:26 to go. But a pair of 3 pointers by Carter started a 9-0 run to make the score 69-63 after Carter converted a steal by Anriel into an assist to Wells on a fast break. Down 6, 6:21 to go. DePaul countered with a layup but Carter hit another 3 pointer to make it a 5 point lead. The crowd was jumping out of their seats at this point. DePaul got a layup to go up 7. Anriel made a layup and was fouled. The FT made it a 4 point lead with 4:23 to go.

With 2:30 remaining Danni was fouled and sank both FTs. 74-71. Ashton Millender answered with a 3 pointer to make it 77-71. Carter hit another 3 and then hit a J after a miss to cut the lead to 77-76. 1:19 to go. Marte Grays got a layup to extend the lead to 3 but fouled Carter with 43 seconds to go. Carter sank the first but missed the second. Would that miss come back to haunt us?

DePaul brought the ball down and worked the clock. But with the shot clock running down, a kickout pass to Kelly Campbell was low and she wasn’t able to handle it cleanly for a shot. After recovering, Campbell drove the left side of the lane and put up a desperate running shot over Jasmine Lumpkin. The ball went hard off the back of the iron and Jasmine grabbed the rebound, passing it off as she fell down. Then this happened:

SBNation’s the Ringer has a description of the greatness of this play. Shea Serrano has a nice description of the moves Carter used to get open for the shot. Anriel and Jasmine are trailing the play and start in for the rebound, but Anriel would say later that she knew it was good when it left Carter’s hand. You can see Danni is the only Ag ahead of the play and has her hand up looking for an assist for a layup.

Remember what I wrote at the top about Coach Blair controlling every play? Well, it’s not quite right:

The game wasn’t quite over, though. DePaul still had 3.2 seconds left to pull out the win. But A&M had a foul to give and Carter used it on the inbounds to Millender with 1.5 seconds left. As DePaul tried to inbound again Jasmine Lumpkin, guarding the inbound passer, picked off the pass to ice the win.

Instant classic.

  • Carter would finish with 37 points with 32 coming in the second half, including all 7 of her 3-pointers. The 7 treys ties her for third in the single game records at A&M. She’s also only 3 behind Danni for the single season record for made 3s. Carter at 22.4 is slightly ahead of Danielle Adams’ single season scoring average record of 22.3. She’s already second to Adams in the single season total points records (Carter 785, Adams 847).
  • Anriel Howard had an emphatic double double with 18 points and 19 rebounds. Coach Blair rarely gives game balls, but he gave one to Anriel for this game.
  • If you told me when the game started that Khaalia would go 1-4 and Danni would go 1-10, I would have assumed this was going to be a loss.
  • Jasmine Lumpkin struggled with her shot, but had 10 rebounds and 2 steals including the one at the end.
  • Kayla Wells deserves a shout-out for solid play off the bench. 21 minutes, 8 points, 3 boards.

The comeback was the 4th best in NCAA Women’s Tourney History. Texas A&M is involved in 3 of the top 4. The largest comeback was 21 points in last year’s win against Penn in Round 1. The Ags gave up an 18 point first half lead to Maryland in 2012, which ranks 3rd.

Up Next

  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  • Saturday March 24, 2018 Time TBA (But it will be 3 or 5PM CST)
  • Spokane Arena, Spokane, WA
  • TV: ESPN

The Ags will head to Spokane for the Sweet 16, where they will face the #1 seed, Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish were tied with Villanova at halftime on Sunday night but blew the Wildcats out in the second. Nova had was 10-15 on 3 pointers in the first half, but the Irish ramped up their defense and only allowed 5 attempts from beyond the arc in the second half. Kathryn Westbeld returned to the lineup after halftime (she had been a game time decision after rolling an ankle in the first round) to complement Jessica Shepard in the front line. The result was doubling the number of offensive boards, a big advantage in second chance points and domination. Irish get a 98-72 win to advance to meet the Ags.

Notre Dame starters are likely to be

  • #24 5-8 Jr G Arike Ogunbowale is a Naismith candidate who was all-ACC this season. She leads the Irish in scoring, averaging 20.6 ppg.
  • #23 6-4 Jr Tr F Jessica Shepard was also all-ACC in her first season with Notre Dame. She averages 15.6 ppg and leads in rebounding at 8.0 rpg. Shepard is a transfer from Nebraska and for some reason was able to get a waiver to not have to sit a year.
  • #3 5-11 Jr G Marina Mabrey is the third all-ACC starter. She averages 13.5 ppg and 4.3 assists/g. She also leads the team in steals and has the most 3 pt attempts and 3 pointers made at 74.
  • #5 6-0 So G Jackie Young scores 14.4 ppg.
  • #33 6-2 Sr F Kathryn Westbeld averages 7.5 ppg and 5.4 rpg. I’m expecting her to be fully recovered from her ankle injury by next week, since she played the second half vs Villanova.

A&M leads the all-time series with Notre Dame 2-1, with the biggest win being the obvious one. The teams haven’t played since a tourney in Las Vegas in Dec 2012, when the Irish got their only win over the Ags.