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WBB: Ags win a war with the Dores

The Aggie Women's Bouncy Ball team started the New Year and SEC play by taking a hard-fought win at Reed vs a tough Vandy squad on Friday night.

Khaalia Hillsman works for inside position vs Vanderbilt
Khaalia Hillsman works for inside position vs Vanderbilt
Jim Hu's iPhone

Coach Blair was back in his normal spot on the bench after his exile to the far end on Wednesday.

First half

The Ags started a lineup of Khaalia Hillsman, Achiri Ade, Courtney Williams, Courtney Williams, and Jordan Jones, while Coach Melanie Balcomb went with a change, putting Audrey Caron-Goudrou into the starting lineup along with Heather Bowe (pronounced Bo-vee), Rebekah Dahlman, Jasmine Jenkins, and Morgan Batey. The Ags started quickly with Khaalia getting a quick layup in the paint to start an 8-0 run to open the game. Heather Bowe broke the ice for Vandy and cut the lead to 10-4 with a second jumper as Vandy broke a press. In my preview of this game, I thought that Khaleann Caron-Goudrou was out for the season based on the writeup of her injury and her lack of minutes in the nonconference schedule. But K Caron-Goudrou came in at about 17 minutes in the first half.

Vandy started to hit open looks but the Ags held on to a 19-13 lead at the second media timeout with 11:55 to go. But coming out of the commercial break, Vandy went on an 8-0 run to take the lead at 20-19. A few moments later at 8:49 in the half, CWill was harassed in the right corner and lost the ball. As she walked away she bounced the ball behind her toward the ref but it went into the dance team and the zebra called a technical on Williams. From where we were, I don't know if there was anything else, but it put CWill in foul trouble and sent her to the bench. Batey hit one of two.

Walker tied it back up on a swipe and a score to tie it up at 21. Achiri got a putback of a Walker miss to make it 22-21 Ags, but Vandy went on another run to go up 32-25. At 2:46 in the half with Vandy up 30-23, Coach went with his extra small lineup with Tavarsha Scott-Williams in the post along with Williams, Chelsea Jennings, Walker, and Jones. At that point, Vandy had hit 12 shots on 19 attempts. Ade replaced Williams at 1:47 when CWill was called for her 3rd foul reaching in after a Vandy offensive rebound. But those small groups cut the halftime lead to 32-31 and held Vandy without a FG. Chelsea Jennings had an assist to Ade and a jumper with 8 seconds left. Tavarsha had 2 big rebounds. Walker had a J and an assist.

In the post-game radio interview, Asst Coach Bob Starkey commented about how that run let the Ags feel like they were OK at halftime, and that they just needed to clean up a few things.  Bowe led all scorers with 10 points on perfect 5-5 shooting, mostly jumpers from around the top of the key. Williams led the Ags with 9 in just 13 minutes of PT while Ade had 8. Vandy had the edge in rebounds 17-12.

Second half

The Ags went with the starters to begin the second half, but crossed the Dores up by starting in a zone. The Vandy lead didn't survive their long as Walker stole the ball on their first possession and JJ went for a layup. the teams traded buckets and the lead for a few possessions but Williams hit a 3 pointer with the score tied at 38 to give the Ags the lead for good.  The Ags attacked the paint and Vandy's bigs started to get into foul trouble on a combination of defensive fouls and moving picks. The Ags stretched the lead to 51-41 at 12:22, but Vandy wouldn't go away. With Williams getting her 4th foul at 12:46 we were worried in the crowd about how well the Ags would do with Williams on the bench for a long time. Rayte'a Long's baby hook over Hillsman at 8:58 cut the A&M lead to 54-50. Walker and Scott stretched it to 58-50; the bucket by Scott was on a beautiful assist from Jones leading to a reverse layup by Tori.  But then Dahlman hit a trey to cut the lead to 58-53.

By 6:39 both of the Caron-Goudrou twins had 4 fouls. The first twin to foul out was Audrey, who hammered CWalk on an inbounds play with just 3 seconds on the shot clock. After that it seemed that Vandy ran out of gas and the Ags stretched the lead to 11 before Balcomb called a timeout with 4:37 left after Tori hit a jumper from the right baseline. It stayed at 11 through a couple more timeouts until Khaleann fouled Walker to join her sister on the bench. The Ags stretched the lead to 16 with just over a minute to go.

Final score 75-61.

We had to fight, this is how the SEC is going to be all year. The score was a lot closer... Neither team could stop either team

-Gary Blair

Random notes

  • The Ags shot 64% from the field in the second half. Vandy shot 56.5% in the second half. But the Ags also forced the Commodores into 21 turnovers and got 20 points off turnovers.
  • CWill led all scorers with 22 points despite only playing 24 minutes. Williams hit 9 of 13 shots from the field including 3/4 from 3.
  • CWalk had 17 points; 11 in the second half, shooting 6-11 from the field. Walker was often defending much taller players and had a number of deflections in addition to the 3 steals she was credited with.
  • Achiri had a great game. She had a double double with 10 points and 11 boards (5 offensive). And I thought she did a very nice job on D.
  • JJ was one point short of a double-double with 15 assists and 9 points. The 15 assists is tied for 5th most by any A&M WBB player and is the most for any SEC game (Sydney Colson had 15 vs Nebraska in 2011). Jones is now in 7th place on the all-time assists list for the Ags.
  • Bowe led Vandy with 16. She only missed on FG all night. Vandy is going to be interesting going forward. Bowe is solid. The Caron-Goudrou sisters are going to be good. It's an interesting contrast from the guard dominated look of last season. That team can hit open shots!
  • It was game 3 of a stretch where the Ags play 4 games in 7 days.
  • The officials didn't have a particularly good night. They let muggings go and then called phantom fouls on both teams. In watching the replay on WatchESPN, I noticed that the announcers commented on missed traveling calls and fouls called on clean blocks (and not just on the Ags). I confess that at one point in the second half I yelled at them to ask if they had gotten Red Ryder BB guns for Christmas... and shot their eyes out.
  • Today I chose to use a fuzzy iPhone photo instead of one of the outdated ones from the image library

Up next:

  • Arkansas
  • Sunday Jan 4
  • Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
  • ESPNU, KZNE 1150AM

The Hogs canned their coach from last year and hired former ESPN Commentator Jimmy Dykes, in a move that was somewhat controversial in WBB circles due to his lack of coaching experience and the way Arkansas seemed to have not considered any experienced women for the job. That might have been good for the Ags, as our own Kelly Bond-White might have been a candidate, given her time with Coach Blair including the last 3 years at Arkansas.

Last year we played Arkansas just once, on Senior night, when JJ went off for a triple double in a blowout win. We get the Hogs twice this year: once on Sunday in Fayetteville and in a return to Reed on Feb 12. The Razorbacks started this season hot and made a brief appearance in the rankings after knocking off then #17 Iowa on Nov 28 en route to winning the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas. They dropped out after losing to South Dakota State (in OT) and #18 Rutgers. The Sows are still receiving votes in the AP. After Iowa, their best win is probably the one over OU that was the second game of the SEC-B12 Challenge where we lost to tu. The win vs OU was 3rd in a 4 game win streak which was snapped on Friday night as Arkansas fell to Ole Miss in Oxford.

Arkansas has started the same players for all of their games. Excluding stats from Friday's Ole Miss game:

  • #42 6-1 Sr F Jhasmin Bowen scores 11.8 ppg and averages 7.6 rebounds/game
  • #33 6-0 Jr F Melissa Wolf is the leading rebounder at 9.3/game and also scores 10.1 ppg.
  • #0 6-3 So F Jessica Jackson is one of the more talented players in the SEC, and the Ags recruited her aggressively before she signed with former coach Tom Collen. She was on last year's SEC All Freshman team, and made second team on the overall all-SEC team. She's got both the inside game and the range to hit 3s. Jackson scored in double figures in 26 of 30 games. One of the 4 where she fell short of double digits was vs in Reed, where the Ags held her to 1-12 shooting. But we shut down Kelsey Plum last year too. Jackson led the Hogs vs Ole Miss with 17.
  • #15 5-9 So G Kelsey Brooks led the SEC in scoring with a 17.3 ppg average but was held to 9 by the  Rebels. She also leads the team in steals.
  • #11 5-10 Sr G Callie Berna, who graduated in December, plays the point. She averages around 5 points and 5 assists per game.

Unlike several of our opponents who play 2 forwards and 3 guards, The LadyBacks want to go big. They only have 9 total players on their roster and the 4 backups are 3 forwards at 6-1, 6-2 and 6-4 and a 5-9 Fr G. 4 of the starters are averaging 30+ min/g, while the fifth, Bowen is playing close to that. As a team, Arkansas is averaging 68.6 ppg while holding opponents to 53.9. they make about 5.8 threes per game. They average 13.5 turnovers per game. Ole Miss forced them into 17.