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WBB: Ags sweep #11 Kentucky

Road win clinches the 3 seed in the SEC tourney

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Spokane Regional
Carter led all scorers with 24 and put the game away in the 4th quarter.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The #19 Fighting Texas Aggie Women’s Bouncy Ball team went into Lexington needing a win to sweep the #11 Wildcats for the season and clinch 3rd place and a double bye in the upcoming SEC tournament. The game was close but the Ags come home with another important win.

In the first meeting in Reed, Kentucky’s Maci Morris and Rhyne Howard both had more than 20 points and the Cats outrebounded the Ags 34-31. A&M held the third Kentucky star, point guard Taylor Murray to 8 points at Reed. After that loss, Kentucky dropped a game vs S. Carolina at home and then went on a 6 game win streak that elevated them to #11 in the polls after they got revenge on the Gamecocks in Columbia. Kentucky had beaten LSU in Lexington on their Senior Day, held last Sunday, while the Ags had to travel to Florida for a Monday night game. In summary, A&M was facing a higher ranked team on a winning streak at their place with more travel and less rest.

The Ags started strong, hitting 4 of their first 5 shots and forcing an early timeout from Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell when it was 9-2 at the 7:23 mark of the first quarter. Mitchell called another timeout at 2:22 with A&M up 16-4. The Ags would finish the first period with a 19-7 lead. Star freshman Rhyne Howard would pick up 2 early fouls, which limited her for the rest of the game.

The Ags would go up 22-7 in the second quarter, but suddenly got careless with the ball. Kentucky had increased their defensive energy, but several turnovers were not so much from outstanding D as from loss of concentration. Four straight possessions ended in turnovers. Kentucky didn’t get points off them, but it kept A&M from growing the lead. Howard, playing with 2 fouls, and Amanda Paschal started making shots helping Kentucky erase the deficit and take a 26-25 lead with 1:24 left in the first half. Carter then drew a foul and made the first of two FTs. Ciera Johnson rebounded the miss and was fouled. Johnson made both to give A&M a 28-26 lead going into halftime.

After staring out shooting well in the first quarter, the second quarter dropped the overall FG% to just 34.5%. Carter led all scorers with 10 points, but did not score a FG in the second quarter. A&M had a big halftime lead in rebounds at 25-14. But had turned it over 9 times. Overall the Ags had played very good defense, holding Maci Morris scoreless. Howard’s foul trouble limited her to 14 minutes and 5 points.

Morris drew a third foul on Sham Washington early in the third quarter and tied it at 28 from the FT line. The teams traded baskets for a long stretch of the third quarter. A&M would take the lead. Kentucky would answer to tie the game. This lasted until Kayla Wells had a rare FT miss with 3:48 left, allowing Kentucky to take aa 41-40 lead on a jumper by Jaida Roper. But then the Ags went a 9-0 run before Morris hit a 3 with 1:19 left in the third. Johnson scored in the paint and then blocked Kentucky’s last attempt of the quarter to make it 51-44 going into the last quarter.

It felt like A&M would have to withstand another run by the home team. And Kentucky did come out in the fourth quarter and whittle away the lead to just 54-51 with lots of time remaining (6:16). But the Ags regrouped on defense and Carter went to work, using high screens to penetrate for layups. A personal 6-0 run by Carter made it 60-53 with 2:01 remaining and Kentucky got increasingly desperate to score. The last chance was probably after Murray converted a steal off Carter into a layup and the Cats thought they got a stop when Wells went baseline and her shot went off the bottom of the backboard with just under a minute to play. But the ball went out of bounds off a Kentucky player and Johnson was able to score on the baseline off the inbounds play when the defenders thought she was going to hand the ball off to Carter.

Final score: Ags 62 Cats 55

  • Carter led all scorers with 24 points. She committed 6 turnovers but had 5 assists.
  • Ciera Johnson had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
  • Kayla Wells had 14 points in what seemed like a quiet performance compared to her last couple of games.
  • N’dea Jones had another double-digit rebounding game with 12. She added 7 points on 3-6 shooting.
  • Sham Washington had another game of good stuff that doesn’t show up in the box score, mostly on D.
  • Overall, A&M outrebounded Kentucky 47-28.
  • Despite the turnovers, the Ags played outstanding transition defense, giving up zero fast break points. That led to a 12-5 edge in second chance points.
  • Maci Morris led Kentucky with 11 points, all in the second half. Tatyana Wyatt had 10. Taylor Murray had 9 points and 3 steals. Howard was held to 7 points and fouled out at the end.

Elsewhere

The win clinched 3rd place, so at some level, who cares what happened elsewhere?

But there were a couple of notable results, both in the SEC and elsewhere. In the SEC, Mississippi State and S. Carolina both won. MSU is a game up on S. Carolina. They play each other on Sunday in Columbia, SC with a scenario where the Gamecocks could take the regular season title and #1 seed with a win combined with Georgia beating Kentucky in Athens, and Mizzou beating Bama. The other notable result in the SEC was Vanderbilt getting their first win at Tennessee after coming in at 0-33 in Thompson-Boling Arena. This threatens to end the Lady Vols string of consecutive NCAA tourney appearances.

Outside the SEC, #15 Miami, #16 Gonzaga, and #17 Syracuse all won. Losses by Miami or the Zags would have helped the projected 5 seeds chances to host. Syracuse beat Florida State. Both are projected as 5 seeds along with the Ags and Kentucky.

Up Next

  • Arkansas Razorbacks
  • Sunday March 3, 2019 4PM CST
  • Reed Arena
  • Senior Night
  • TV: SEC network Radio: 1150AM 102.7FM

The Ladybacks are in their second year of rebuilding from the Jimmy Dykes disaster under HC Mike Neighbors, aka Gary Blair’s Diet Coke guy when Blair first hired him at Arkansas. Arkansas is 17-12 overall and 6-9 in conference, which means they’ve already doubled their conference wins after last year’s 3-13 SEC record. Some of the better players from before Neighbors took over are on other teams now: Miss State’s Jordan Danberry and our own Aaliyah Wilson transferred from Arkansas. Nevertheless, Neighbors has done OK with rebuilding the guards. Veteran Malica Monk is good, and OU transfer Chelsea Dungee is already impressive. The problem for Arkansas is in the front line. Their tallest starter is 6-1. They have a couple of 6-3 players on the bench; one plays regular minutes. This leads to Arkansas being outrebounded by -6.6 per game. They have an advantage in forcing turnovers.

The same players have started 28/29 games for the Hogs. so this time the likely starters are very likely starters:

  • #33 5-11 Rs So Tr Chelsea Dungee is a transfer from Oklahoma. Dungee is a player who can go off in scoring. She’s averaging 19.6 ppg and 4.5 rebounds/game. That’s good for second in scoring average in the SEC. She scored 25 vs Mizzou on Thursday. 33 in their previous game vs Ole Miss, and had a season high 41 vs Auburn.
  • #03 5-5 Sr G Malica Monk averages 13.1 ppg.
  • #02 5-8 Jr G Alexis Tolfree averages 9.8 ppg. She’s mainly a 3 point shooter; 209/307 shots have come from behind the arc.
  • #14 5-9 Jr Jailyn Mason is the PG and averages 7.1 ppg. But Monk has more assists.
  • #10 6-1 Jr F/C Kiara Williams averages 6.5 ppg and leads the team in rebounding and blocked shots. She averages 6.8 rebounds per game (-10.1 in SEC play). Arkansas shoots lots of 3 pointers, making an average of 7.6/game.