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WBB: A depressing loss to Texas in Little Rock

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The Women's Bouncy Ballers could not hold on to an 11 point second half lead in the Sips used a stifling press defense to get a 67-65 comeback win.

Nneka Enempkali had 21 points and 13 rebounds for the tsips vs the Ags
Nneka Enempkali had 21 points and 13 rebounds for the tsips vs the Ags
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Ags had a chance to break a 3 game losing streak to the Lady Longhorns in the inaugural game of the Women's SEC-B12 challenge. Texas vs Texas A&M was the first game of a doubleheader with OU and Arkansas playing the late game. Earlier in the week, Coach Blair talked about having a dream where the game went 8 overtimes and he woke up before seeing who won.

First Half

The Longhorns are much stronger inside than most of the teams we've been playing, so Coach Blair went with a starting lineup of Jada Terry, Achiri Ade, Courtney Williams, Courtney Walker, and Jordan Jones. With star freshman guard Ariel Atkins still out, Texas' Karen Alston countered with Kelsey Lang, Nneka Emempkali, Empress Davenport, Brady Sanders, and Celina Rodrigo.

The game started with the Ags defensive rotation completely failing to cover Lang. The Texas post had the Horns first 8 points on 3 layups from the right side and a jumper. First, Lang beat Terry down the floor. Then Jada left Lang to help on D twice, leaving the Texas post wide open for layups. Nneka Enempkali added a layup on the left side before Coach Blair was forced to call a timeout at 16:34 of the first half with the score 10-4 Texas. Neither team scored in the next minute before the first TV timeout. After than, Jordan Jones put the team on her back and kept the Ags in the game. Jones had 8 points as the Ags cut the lead to 19-14 by the 10:48 commercial break. She was also taking charges and playing intense D. Jones and the Ags then shot past Texas to take the lead.

Khaalia Hillsman replaced Jada and Tavarsha Scott-Wiliams came in for Ade with about 14 minutes left in the half.  The Ags went on a run when Rachel Mitchell came in at the post after the 10:48 timeout. It was 19-14 Texas at that point. Tori Scott hit a pair of jumpers to cut the lead to 1, Achiri got a putback to take the lead. Sanders answered quickly but then Williams hit a pullup jumper and Jones had a swipe and a score to make the score 24-21. Jones went to her knees to steal the ball at midcourt, got up and beat everyone down the court for a layup. Texas timeout. Curtyce Knox came in for Jones, who was getting cramps and got a Texas turnover that turned into a Williams jumper.

With 6:22 to go in the first half, Tavasha was unable to control an offensive board on a Williams miss. Brady Sanders got the ball and tried to go the length of the court. Rachel came off of Lang and rejected the layup, knocking Sanders into Enempkali, who wound up stunned on the floor. It seemed that Texas stopped going inside while Rachel was inside, but Mitchell picked up her third foul with 2:46 to go.

Texas rallied to tie the game again at 31. Walker had several opportunities to extend score on open jumpers, but missed shots we're used to seeing her drain. Jones hit a 3-pointer to make it 31-26. A pair of FTs for Enempkali and a Krystie Henderson 3-pointer, combined with another miss from Walker tied the score at 31. Walker missed again but Williams got a help ball and possession with 8.4 seconds left. Williams got the ball and turned into a triple-team in the lane, but drew a foul on Sanders. CWill hit one of two to give the Ags a 32-31 halftime lead.

The Ags held the Longhorns to just 4 offensive boards in the first half.

Second Half

The Ags came out and turned the Horns over immediately and Williams got warmed up. Walker got a steal and a layup to make it a 9 point lead. The Ags stretched the lead to 11 when Jada Terry put back a Walker miss on a fast break. Jada was playing much better D on Lang to start the second half. Meanwhile, Nneka Enemplaki was keeping Texas in the game.

Then things started to fall apart. Texas went to a full court press and the Ags didn't handle it particularly well. It could have been worse, as Texas blew a layup off a turnover. Walker hit a jumper and added an and one to make it 50-41. After a tu bucket, Williams kept the lead at 9 with a driving layup. At that point the Ags were shooting over 70% from the field in the half, and the lead seemed relatively safe, but Texas' energy was up and the Horns started grinding away at the lead. Texas cut the lead to 4 about halfway through the half. An Enempkali putback with 5:08 to go cut the Aggie lead to 1 at 58-59. Lang tied the game at 60 with 4:47 to go. Davenport was fouled by Williams with 4:14 to go. Williams tried to draw a charge by coming over from the left side as Davenport drove from the right of the lane. Williams almost made it but was just late in establishing position. Davenport hit both to give Texas it's first lead of the second half. Worse, it was the 4th foul on Williams.

Tori tried to kick the ball out to Walker, but they weren't on the same page and it became a turnover. A foul on the following Texas possession allowed Davenport to stretch the lead to 63-61. After a Jones miss, Davenport drove the right side against Williams for a layup. 65-61 tu. Williams answered to make it 65-63 with 2:10 to go. Texas turned the ball over and the Ags had a chance to tie. Jones drove the left side but couldn't finish. Enempkali probably fouled Jones after she released the shot, but there was no call. Ade tied up the ball on the rebound to get possession back with 1:17 left. Williams couldn't hit but Jones drew a charge on Henderson. Ade got a loose ball and hit a jumper with the shot clock running down to tie the game at 65. Timeout Ags with 28.3 seconds left.

With 11 seconds left in the game, Jones stole the ball from Henderson and both players went to the floor at midcourt. The refs called a held ball, while Ags would argue that Henderson had fouled Jones before the ball was tied up. But the sips got the ball back with the possession arrow. With Williams playing with 4 fouls, Davenport drove the right side again and got around CWill. Ade was late rotating to help and Davenport laid it up to take a 67-65 lead.

4.6 seconds to go. Taylor Cooper took the ball out on the endline with the two Courtneys around the lane. Jones was up near midcourt on the right side. Cooper threw it to Jones who drove all the way to the other end down the right side. Jones tried to lay it up from the lane but the the ball bounced off the back of the rim and out as the buzzer went off. Jones had a chance to hit Walker on her right for an open jumper but it was not a bad attempt to take. It just didn't go down.

Overall

  • With the win, the Texas seniors will be undefeated vs the Ags unless there's a rematch in March Madness.
  • Jones had a career high 21 points in the loss and added 4 steals. She was terrific at drawing offensive fouls as well. However, she only had 4 assists and 5 turnovers. While her scoring was essential to keeping A&M in the game, there were a couple of shots in crunch time that probably too difficult.
  • Jones low assist numbers reflected a very poor shooting performance for Courtney Walker. Walker finished with 9 points on 3 for 15 shooting. CWalk was perfect from the FT line, but was only able to get there 3 times. I rewatched to see whether Walkers poor shooting reflected outstanding D by Texas, and I'm not sure. There were open looks that we usually see her hit that were going off the back iron or going in and out.
  • As expected Texas outrebounded the Ags, 40-33. This wasn't as bad as it might have been. Overall, the Ags did enough on the boards to stay in the game.  But Nneka Enempkali's 13 reboards included 7 on the offensive glass that contributed to her 21 points. Enempkali is an incredible rebounder. At times Achiri Ade did a pretty good job on her. Achiri led A&M with 11 boards. Other times, she was just too hard to box out. Enempkali has a way of getting in behind the D by beating the box out the baseline and backing out under the bucket as the rebound is coming.
  • The Ags actually shot a higher percentage from the field: 42.4% vs 39.3%. Overall, A&M made 25 FG to 24 for Texas, and made more 3-pointers, 3-2. So the difference came at the FT line. Texas shot 70.8% from the charity stripe (17-24) while the Ags got there less often and were worse from the line 60% (12-20)
  • Going to the press in the second half was the key point of the game. In real time it felt like the press created more turnovers than it actually did.The Ags had 15 turnovers and got 20 from Texas. A&M outscored Texas off of turnovers 24-6.  But as Coach Blair has said about our pressure D, the real effect was to shorten the shot clock, get the offense out of sync and give less time to get a good look. I was surprised at how badly we handled the press at times.
  • The tu bench outscored the A&M bench 20-4 with all the bench points coming from Tori Scott. Some of this reflected the lack of production from the post, where Jada had 6 points while Khaalia and Rachel were shut out. The Ags only got 6 rebounds from the 5 spot. That lack of production from the 5 shows up in how Texas outscored TAMU in the paint 34-24.
  • One of the long-term criticisms of Coach Blair has been that he underutilizes his bench. In this game, JJ was carrying the team, so sitting her more would be a tough choice. But with JJ starting to cramp up in the first half, an argument can be made for playing Knox more than 2 minutes. In hindsight, I was surprised that Coach didn't sub for Williams, who was playing with 4 fouls, on D at the end. I wonder if Tori or Chelsea might have been able to cut Davenport off on those late drives.

It would have been nice to pull this out, and blowing that double digit second haf lead hurt. But at the end of the day, this was an entertaining game where both teams showed why they deserve their rankings. And it will make us stronger. Nothing in the loss makes me worry about the possibility of seeing Texas again in the tourney.

Up next

  • @Washington
  • Dec 29 8PM (something else is going on that day, right?)
  • Pac-12 Network

The Ags take the rest of the week off for the holidays and resume play on the road vs the Washington Huskies. The Ags beat Washington last year in Reed 74-68. My writeup of that game has it down as an ugly win. The10-1  Huskies return 4 of the starters from last year's game. Expected starters:

  • #23 6-0 Sr F Aminah Williams. Williams had 8 points and 10 boards vs the Ags last year. She's averaging 9.7 ppg this year and leads UW in rebounds with 9.3/game
  • #3 6-2 RSJr F Talia Walton. Walton had 15 points and 8 boards at Reed. She's averaging 12.4 ppg this year.
  • #32 5-7 Sr G Jazmine Davis. Davis is an outstanding guard who is averaging 16 ppg this season. At Reed, she led all scorers with 24 points. The Ags made her take 21 shots to get them.
  • #10 5-8 So G Kelsey Plum. After an outstanding freshman season for UW, Plum is leading the team with 26.1 ppg. Based on the assists stats, it looks like Plum and Davis share the point.
  • #21 5-10 RSFr G Brianna Ruiz is the only likely starter who wasn't in last year's game. Ruiz started the last game for UW, but has only started in 6 of their 11 games so far. She's averaging 6.3 ppg
Three reserves average double digit minutes
  • #0 6-2 F/C Chantel Oshafor plays 18.3 min/game. Oshafor is a shotput and discus star and is huge. But she's surprisingly quick for a big girl, and has range: she's 10-24 from behind the arc. Oshafor hit 2 3-pointers in Reed last year as part of her overall 9 points in 17 minutes.
  • #20 5-8 Fr G Kelli Kingma plays 14.5 min/game and average 2.7 ppg.
  • #13 6-3 RSSo F/C Katie Collier plays 12.9 min/game and is averaging 3.9 ppg.
The Huskies are averaging 84.4 points/game and are giving up 65.1. They shoot a lot of 3s, making 8.7/game. The 10-1 record is mostly against undistinguished teams. Their last win was on Saturday, a 74-71 comeback win vs UC-Riverside.