The Women’s Bouncy Ball team got a second crack at the undefeated #2 Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday evening in the first seminfinal of the SEC tournament.
When A&M played MSU in Starkville, the Ags spotted the home team an 11-0 lead to start the game after Khaalia Hillsman and Chennedy Carter started on the bench for being late for a team bus. This time there was no ill-advised run for Chik-fil-A and Mexican food and A&M started at full strength and on a 4 game win streak.
The Ags came out strong and took it to the heavily favored Bulldogs. The teams traded the lead early but after Ro Johnson gave MSU an 8-7 lead at 6:48, the Ags went on a 11-2 run to take an 18-10 lead with just over a minute remaining in the opening quarter. The Ags would outrebound MSU 15-7, leading to 7-2 advantage in second chance points. Vic Schaefer would say later that A&M punched his team in the mouth and knocked them down. But down is far from out and Miss State regrouped with 5-0 run to end the quarter, giving the Ags an 18-15 lead going into the second. Jasmine Lumpkin picked up her second foul near the end to the first. Jada Walton finished the first quarter and started the second in place of Lumpkin.
Early in the second, Blair Schaefer tied the game at 20. The teams traded scores and it was tied at 24 with 6:23 to go in the half. Then things went south quickly. Carter was starting to rush the offense and wasn’t getting teammates involved. When she cooled off Miss State was able to go on a 12-2 run. A&M looked confused on offense in that stretch, which included Carter having to sit after picking up her second foul. Blair had to put her back in later with the offense was even more stagnant. But after she returned there was a bizarre turnover where Carter lost her dribble and instead of taking a turnover for double dribble or over and back, watched the ball bounce while Morgan William scooped it up and ran for a layup. Only a late jump shot by Danni Wiliams with 3 seconds remaining kept the lead under 10. Vic would later say that he was mad at himself for not being up12 at halftime, but he didn’t say anything negative to his team.
Halftime score MSU 36 Ags 28. The Ags had shot 12-35 from the field (34.3%) with 8 turnovers. State shot 50% for the first half and only turned it over 3 times. Carter had 13 points for A&M at halftime on 5-12 shooting. HIllsman had 6, Danni 4. Lumpkin was 1-4 and Anriel’s 11 first half rebounds were somewhat diminished by going 1-7 from the field. However she had both of the Ags assists in the first half. A&M still had a 24-15 edge in rebounds.
The Ags would cut into the lead early in the 3rd. We’d get as close as 5 down with 7:22 remaining in the 3rd. But then Victoria Vivians, who already had 7 first half points, got hot from behind the arc. Vivians had 3 3-pointers in less than 2 minutes of clock time to outscore A&M 9-2. Ro Johnson added a 3 pointer of her own to make it 50-35 after the media timeout. A&M would not get within 10 for the rest of the game.
Final score MSU 70, Ags 55.
- Carter led all scorers with 27 points. But she only had 2 assists against 6 turnovers.
- No other Ag scored in double figures. Vic would say their game plan was to let Carter get whatever she could vs whichever PG was in the game - mostly Morgan William but also Jazzmun Holmes, and focus on neutralizing Danni Williams.
- Anriel’s 17 rebounds were matched her season high.
- 3 Bulldogs were in double figures, led by Vivians’ 22. Itty Bitty had 15 and Ro Johson 13. Teaira McCowan was held to 6 points but her presence inside was correlated with the inability of the Ags to score in the paint… which also let perimeter defenders play more aggressively.
Blair would say the team played better than they did in Starkville, and I agree. But like the first contest it highlighted areas where the team can improve.
The Ags are off until the NCAA tournament. There will be the annual party where the fans are invited to the Cox McFerrin Center to watch the selection show with the team on Monday March 12.