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WBB: Second-half Ags in the Second City

After knocking off the #18 DePaul Blue Demons, the Women's Bouncy Ballers needed strong second halves to sweep the Maggie Dixon classic with wins against New Mexico and UT-Pan American. The Sunday game turned into a comeback nailbiter, but the Ags survived to come home 3-0.

Courney Walker is closing in on 1000 points for her career as an Ag
Courney Walker is closing in on 1000 points for her career as an Ag
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Ags 66, New Mexico 52

The audio for this game was only available via the internet stream from 96.1-HD3, which was pretty terrible from campus during tailgate time. So this recap is based on snippets of incoherent audio, the and recaps, and the box score and play by play available on the web.

Fish post Khaalia Hillsman got her first career start as the Ags went with Hillsman, Ade, Scott, Walker, and Jones. After leading by 6 in the first half, the Ags let the Lobos take the lead briefly at 24-23 with 1:26 to go in the first. The Ags only led by 1 at the break, 27-26. Against a smaller team with less talent and depth, this was not a strong performance by the Ags.

The coaches presumably did what coaches do at halftime and A&M played better after the break. After shooting only 10-28 (35.7%) in the first half, the Ags hit 15-28 (53.6%) in the second. With no second half play by play available, it's not clear to me exactly what happened, but it looks like the Ags opened the second half on an 8-0 run and never looked back.

Walker played 36 minutes and led the Ags with 20 points. Hillsman and Tavarsha Scott-Williams each had 8 and pulled down 9 and 11 rebounds, respectively. The Ags had a frightening 20 turnovers after giving up 25 to DePaul.

UT-Pan Am

This game was on WTAW, so I was able to hear it without the problems for of the New Mexico game. After playing great D in the first two games, the Ags seemed to have a letdown in the finale. Like DePaul, UT-Pan Am used a 4 guard lineup and is a quick team. The Broncos started off hot (8/11 in before the 12:45 mark) and pulled out to a 22-10 lead early in the first half. The Ags 3 point D disappeared as well.

The Ags started reeling the Broncos back in taking advantage of size and by increasing the defensive intensity. A&M closed the gap to 1 but then UTPA stretched it back to xx by pushing the ball and penetration. Halftime score 40-33 Broncos. The Ags shot only 12-33 from the field and 7-12 from the FT line. Courtney Walker was very quiet, scoring only 2 on 1-7 shooting. Freshman Hildur Kjartansdottir led the Broncos at half with 10 points on 4-5 shooting with 2 threes. She added 7 defensive rebounds but picked up her 3rd foul late in the half.

The Ags started the second half with a small lineup. The first possession was a Walker drive plus an and one. Kjartansdottir picked up her 4th on a drive by Tori Scott with 18+ minutes left. UTPA pulled Kjartansdottir and then decided to play her with 4 fouls. With the lead down to 42-40 Taylor Cooper drew a charge and Achiri Ade blocked a shot on consecutive UTPA possessions. After the block JJ was fouled on the break and tied the score at 42. The Ags took the lead and stretched it to 7 before UTPA coach Tidwell called timeout at 6:07.

A&M stretched the lead to 59-51, but turnovers allowed UTPA to go on a 6-0 run and cut it back to 2 at 59-57 with 2 minutes to go. Timeout Ags. FTs from Ade and Walker stretched it to 5 with a minute left. 5-7 Senior Captain T'Ondria Nolen countered with a layup and forced a travel on Walker with 32 seconds left. Knox blocked a 3 pointer and Jones took a charge to get the ball back with 12.6 seconds left. The Broncos had to foul Cooper who hit 1 of 2 to make it 63-59 with 9 seconds to go. Nolen was fouled by Jennings with 3 seconds to go.  Nolen hit both and UTPA went for the late steal. Jones hit Tori on the long baseball pass and Tori shot FTs with 1.9 to go. Tori missed both. 1.3 left. UTPA timeout with the score 63-61. UTPA couldn't convert on a full-court pass and shot and the Ags survived. Barely: 63-61.

After being held to 2 in the first half, Walker scored 15 in the second to lead the Ags again. Taylor Cooper broke into the scoring column for the first time as an Aggie with 11. Cooper's first half performance helped the Ags stay in striking range at the break. Achiri Ade had a career high 16 rebounds as the Ags used a small lineup for much of the game. Nolen's 14 points just edged reserve Shawnte Goff's 13 to lead the Broncos.

For the game, the Ags dominated the boards 43-28 but were outscored in the paint 30-22. UTPA had 8 fast break points to just 2 for the Ags.

Overall weekend impressions

Without seeing 2/3 games and only having a video stream with no replay for the other, impressions are based on limited data. But it seems the Ags are still finding their game and were fortunate to come out of the weekend unscathed. Ball security is a problem as A&M is figuring out how to play without Courtney Williams and with new players in the post. 17 turnovers on Sunday added to the 25 and 20 for the DePaul and New Mexico games is not what we expect from this team. JJ was on the right side of the A/TO margin vs UTPA with 6 assists and only 3 turnovers, but against New Mexico and DePaul she had 4A/8TO and 2A/6TO, respectively. The low numbers so far for fast break points are also a concern.

Right now the D is winning the contests. With the exception of the first 10 minutes against UTPA, the Ags have been holding teams in the 30s or below in shooting.

Coming into the season the biggest question was how we would replace Karla Gilbert in the post. It's still the biggest question, even with the new question of when and if Courtney Williams will be reinstated coming up. So far, it seems like 6-7 RS junior Rachel Mitchell has not shown the coaches enough; she played 2 minutes vs DePaul, 7 against the Lobos, and was only in to challenge the final inbounds pass vs UTPA. The optimistic alternative is that the coaches are using these games to get Jada and Khaalia more baptism by fire early... but that doesn't fit with how much we used small lineups vs UTPA. Jada and Khaalia had a total of 20 min of PT on Sunday. Our stronger upcoming opponents (Duke, tu, most of the SEC) are all going to present stiffer challenges at the 4 and 5 positions. Hope all 3 of our posts can grow up fast. At the 4, Achiri and Tavarsha give us capable but undersized options. It looks like Cooper can play the 3 or the 4, which would give us an outside threat at the 4.

With Williams out, Coach Blair has already expressed concern about overusing Courtney Walker

"I'm wearing her out just because no one else is hitting," Blair said. "Walker wants (Williams) back in a hurry. Her arm's getting tired."

That was after the game on Saturday. On Sunday, Walker played all 40 minutes.

Up Next

The Ags return to College Station for the home opener

  • Opponent: Rice Owls.
  • Location: Reed Arena
  • Date and Time: 7PM Wed Nov 19

The Owls are 1-0, having beaten Prairie View 70-58 at home.  Against the Panthers, Rice started

  • Christal Porter 6-0 SR post 16 rebounds vs PVAMU
  • Jasmine Goodwine 6-1 SO forward. Goodwine had a double-double, 22 points and 10 rebounds, vs PVAMU
  • Megan Palmer 6-1 JR forward
  • Reem Moussa 5-5 SR guard
  • Shani Rainey 5-10 FR guard. 21 points vs PVAMU

5-11 SR guard Nakachi Maduka had 26 minutes off the bench and scored 8. 6-1 SO post Adaiez Obinnah played 10 minutes.

Courtney Walker is now 10 points away from 1000 for her A&M career. Last season Walker's 563 points was 6th best all-time. The all-time career leaders are Takia Starks with 1,977 and Lisa Branch with 1,939.

BTHO Rice!