Ever since the team returned from Seattle with Coach Blair sick enough to send himself to the end of the bench, the Ags have been fighting infectious disease as well as opponents. The fever has been especially rough on the posts: Rachel Mitchell didn't play against Arkansas and Khaalia Mitchell was missing in Knoxville and also on Sunday against LSU. There were rumors of 103 degree fevers for both and a trip to the hospital for Hillsman.
With his posts either ill or possibly tired (Jada Terry played a lot of minutes on Thurs night), Coach Blair went to a small starting lineup with Achiri Ade, Courtney Williams, Tori Scott, Courtney Walker, and Jordan Jones. Nikki Caldwell countered with Sheila Boykin, Ann Pedersen, Raigyne Moncrief, DaShawn Harden, and Rina Hill. The Ags started fast with a 6-0 run, forcing an early LSU timeout less than three minutes into the game. But the visitors came out of the break with renewed energy for their switching 2-3 zone and shut down the A&M offense. They added a press to shorten the clock for the Ags, who seemed tentative about how to attack the zone.The result was a mere 18 points by halftime... the worst half of the season in terms of scoring. Coach Blair was obviously frustrated. At one point we heard him loudly yell "Run my offense!"
Meanwhile, LSU was able to beat the A&M help off of screens to get to the lane for way too many layups. LSU had 6 layups in the first half, mostly in the half-court offense. Fortunately the Ag D was good enough to keep the LSU total to just 25 by the break. It could have been worse as the Ags also committed 10 turnovers before the break.
At the end of the half, we should have given everybody their money back
According to the postgame coverage, halftime was interesting in the A&M locker room. The staff decided to go with the players they thought were showing the most energy, regardless of position.
There was no x's and o's at halftime. It was gut check time trying to live up to who we're supposed to be
The decision put CWill on the bench in favor of Chelsea Jennings. Williams was clearly upset on the bench and Sydney Colson spent a good bit of the start of the half talking to her and comforting her. Before shooting warmups, Jones spent some extra time conferring with Coach Blair on the bench.
The Ags started with Jones hitting an open jumper in the lane leading Caldwell to call another quick timeout. JJ hit a 3 to cut the lead to 2. LSU countered to stretch it to 6 before Coach brought in Curtyce Knox.for Walker while Akilah Bethel was shooting a pair of FTs. Curtyce responded to playing the 2 by draining a pair of 3s around a timeout and a Danielle Ballard off balance layup over Ade to make it 31-29 LSU with 15:34 to go. A CWalk drive down the right side of the lane came on a series where the Ags drew 2 fouls on LSU and got an offensive board. LSU retook the lead and got it up to 6 again, but the crowd was getting into the game and the Ags were moving the ball better and attacking the inside more. The aggressiveness got the Ags into the bonus with 10:54 to go... which was also the first time A&M got to the line in the game.
On D, the Ags had adjusted to go under screens and the layups that were there in the first half were largely shut down. A&M also started pressuring in the backcourt and on every inbounds play. The turnover margin gradually shifted in A&M's direction and the shooting percentage for LSU kept creeping down.
Achiri cut the lead to 1 by hitting free throws after aggressive post moves. Then the Ags took the lead when JJ stole the ball from Ballard on the right baseline and hit a streaking Curtyce for a layup. The teams traded the lead until Tavarsha Scott-Williams stole a pass into the lane and Jones was fouled running the ball up the court. JJ missed the front end, but Achiri got the long rebound and passed out to Jones, who saw Chelsea Jennings open in the left corner. Chelsea attacked the basket and got a layup to make it 42-41. After a couple of empty possessions and turnovers by both teams, Jones hit a three to give the Ags a 2 possession lead for good. I thought Chelsea and Tavarsha had some great hustle plays while they were in. Williams came in for Achiri with 6:39 left, And then Achiri came back while Tori replaced Jennings with just under 6 minutes to go.
The Ags got the lead up to 6 but LSU kept fighting and got it down to 2 a couple of times, But each time the Ags responded with a big play. At 48-46 with 2:30 left, Ade got an offensive board on a CWalk miss after an A&M timeout JJ missed a 3 but CWill got the rebound and putback with 1:38 to go. Boykin quickly cut it to two on the next possession and LSU called timeout with 1:20 left. After the timeout the Tigers forced a turnover as Walker got double teamed under the bucket and couldn't throw the ball after a defender. But with 31 seconds left Achiri got in the way of an entry pass that bounced out to Jones who hit Knox for another streaking layup and a foul. Curtyce missed the FT and the ball went out of bounds off either Walker, who almost stole an offensive board, or one of the LSU players. There was a seemingly interminable official delay to determine possession with 22.3 left while the crowd held a mini Yell Practice. The ball went to LSU. The Ags were able to get a stop and force LSU to foul Jones after she got the defensive rebound on a putback attempt. After JJ hit 1 of 2, Achiri was fouled on another rebounded miss. That allowed Coach Blair to sub Chu for Jones, giving JJ a much-deserved ovation from the crowd.
Final score: Ags 55, LSU 48.
Our crowd didn't give up on us... I love the pressure but I don't want to have to coach as hard as I had to coach today.
- Coach Blair
- After the post-game War Hymn, Coach Blair took the public address microphone to thank the crowd for helping lift the team to the win.
- This was a game where the two PGs picked up for subpar offensive performances by the CW network. Jones had 12 (10 in the second half) to lead the Ags, while Knox had 10, all in the second half. Ade fell just short of a double double for the second game in a row with 9 points and 13 boards. Jones continued to build her SEC leading assist totals with 8.
- The three headed post was invisible vs LSU. Khaalia wasn't in Reed and is presumably still recovering from the flu. Jada played 1 minute in the first half and had 1 turnover while committing 2 fouls. The second foul was particularly pointless as she measured her position vs an offensive player by obviously pushing her at the top of the key. Rachel played 3 minutes in the first half and got 2 rebounds.
- The two worst scoring halves this season have both come in comeback wins: 18 points vs LSU on Sunday. 21 points vs Duke. This does not suggest a long-term plan for success.
- Backup Akilah Bethel led LSU in scoring and had a double-double (13 pts, 10 rebounds). Sheila Boykin was also in double figures. LSU's two star guards were also held down, just as our CWs were. Moncrief had 8 points on 4-12 shooting, while Ballard played a lot more in her second game back, but was only 2-11 from the field and 0-2 from the FT line.
- The win moved the Ags to 15-3 overall and 3-1 in the SEC. With previously undefeated
Texas A&M-StarkvilleMiss State losing at Vandy. That puts the Ags in a 5-way tie for third in the SEC ... which is meaningless this early, but beats being alone in 8th place. 4/5 of those teams tied for 3rd are ranked. The Ags remain unbeaten at home this season.
- Ole Miss
- Sunday Jan 18, 2015 4PM CST
- Reed Arena
- SEC Network KZNE 1150AM
The Ags get a much-needed bye to BTHO their illnesses and fatigue before hosting the Lady RebelBears next Sunday. I've only watched a few minutes of Ole Miss this season. Head Coach Matt Insell is in his second season after being an assistant at Kentucky. Not surprisingly, he's brought the harassing defensive philosophy with him. 2 Ole Miss players are in the top 5 of the SEC in steals. Like Kentucky, Mississippi uses a lot of players to maintain that intensity. As of Jan 8, 10/13 players were averaging 10 min/g or more. The least-used player is averaging more than 6 min/g. By contrast, Arkansas only has 9 on their entire roster. Ole Miss has had 10 players foul out in their first 16 games. In that context, who starts is probably not that important. The starters against Bama on Sunday were:
- #32 6-1 Sr F Tia Faleru was second in the SEC in scoring going into the weekend (16.3 ppg), and led the SEC in rebounds (10.8 rpg). She's also averaging 2.6 steals/game in 30.6 min. She had a double-double vs the Ags last year in Oxford with 21 points and 10 boards.
- #5 5-9 So Tr G Erika Sisk averages 9.5 ppg in 27.1 minutes. We didn't see Sisk last year as she was sitting out her transfer year after coming over from Murray State, where she was OVC Freshman of Year. Sisk is the other Reb among the steals leaders at 2.8/g. She also runs track.
- #12 5-10 Jr G Gracie Frizzell, who replaced #23 5-10 Fr G Shandricka Sessom in the starting lineup after Sessom had started the first 16 games. Before Sunday, Frizzell had 68 3pt attempts out of 82 total shots. Against Bama she went off for 24 points, going 8-12 from 3 and not even attempting a shot inside the arc.
- #22 6-1 Sr F Danielle McCray averages 7.2 ppg. She had 9 points, 5 boards, and 2 blocks last year vs the Ags.
- #3 5-8 Fr G A'Queen Hayes
The Rebs average 71.8 ppg and give up 63.1 They make 4.9 three-pointers/game on a 24.5 3FG%, so they like to jack it up from distance. With their win vs the Tide on Sunday, Ole Miss became the only unranked team in that 5 way tie for third in the SEC. Their overall record is 13-4 with the SEC loss being to Kentucky and the others being a losses to Baylor, Western Kentucky, and Middle Tennessee. After building a 31-17 halftime lead (wow, Bama scored even less than the Ags did vs LSU), Ole Miss and the Tide each scored 46 points in the second half. In that second half, Bama shot 59.3% from the field while Ole Miss shot 61.9%.
It will be interesting to see what the Ags do next Sunday. While the Ole Miss lineup may lend itself to playing small ball similarly to what was done vs LSU, the posts need a lot of work before the Ags hit the road the following week to play Georgia and S. Carolina. Small ball will probably work vs Georgia, but unbeaten #1 S. Carolina makes Tennessee look small. More on that in a future post, but it seems to me that despite the cliche of taking them one at a time, Coach Blair's staff is well aware of what is coming up and when.
BTHO Ole Miss!