I was not that optimistic about our prospects on Thursday night, but it's not a lot of fun to see something close to the worst-case scenario happen. It didn't help my outlook when Coach Blair talked about Rachel being too ill to play vs Arkansas and Khaalia getting the crud for the trip to Tennessee. Especially when he also emphasized that the small lineup was not really an option vs the Lady Vols.
The Ags started Jada Terry, Achiri Ade, Courtney Williams, Courtney Walker and Jordan Jones. Tennessee countered with the expected lineup of Harrison, Graves, Burdick, Carter, and Reynolds. The two teams traded baskets at first and at 17:18 the score was Ags 4, Izzy Harrison 4 when CWalk hit her first attempt (raising hopes!). But A&Ms 4 points were accompanied by a foul apiece on Jones and Williams. On A&M's next possession, Williams drove the left side and got her second foul on a questionable charge drawn by Bashaara Graves, who looked on replay to be late arriving barely outside of the circle. With CWill on the bench, the TAMU offense went dormant while the D was unable to handle a Tennessee offense that was not living up to its reputation for struggling prior to the game.
The pattern for watching this on TV would be: announcers pointing out that A&M was leading the nation in FG% D followed by Tennessee hitting a jump shot, as if on cue. Or at least it seemed that way. It was Harrison 8, Ags 4 before Graves got into the act. Nia Moore came off the bench and added to the lead. Meanwhile, Walker missed her next 6 FG attempts with Williams on the bench and Coach had to bring CWill off the bench with 2 fouls before halftime.
After starting at around 25% shooting, the Ags did a bit better, finishing the half at 43.3%. But the red-hot Vols shot 58.8% from the field en route to a 47-31 lead. Harrison had 12 at half, Cierra Burdick 10 and Moore 9. All three exceeded their per game averages in the first half. For the Ags, CWalk shook off her shooting slump to get 13 in the first half. Limited by fouls, CWill had 4 on a FG and 2 FTs. Jones was 0-3 from the field. Jada had 6 points, Achiri had 8 points and 5 rebounds.
The Ags came out in a 2-3 zone to start the second half. After quickly cutting the lead to 12 it looked like A&M had a chance to get within 10 or less when Walker got a steal. But Jada turned it over and compounded the problem by fouling Harrison to neutralize all but 1 point of progress by the 15:53 media timeout. The Ags started grinding away at the lead again. A pair of buckets by Williams and Walker (both assisted by Jones) cut the lead to single digits at 48-57 with 14:23 to go. Plenty of time for a comeback, and when Ade grabbed the rebound on an Alexa Middleton miss of a 3 pointer, there was chance to keep the momentum going. Then the comeback fell apart.
The key play was when Tennessee got a brilliant putback by Andraya Carter on a missed 3 by Ariel Massengale, which in turn was a second chance after Massengale got the offensive board on a Harrison miss. This was the kind of play Coach Blair had worried about: OK first shot D, but then second and third chances. Although JJ got a pair of FTs at 9:59 to get the deficit back down to 9 again, the Vols seemed to be energized and the Ags deflated. Tennessee then went on a 20-2 run to really and truly put the game out of reach.
Final score: Tennessee 81 Texas A&M 58.
- The Lady Vols wound up shooting 52.4%. They had 24 assists on 33 FGs. The zone was more effective than the man D, but neither was up to our normal expectations. But while there were some cases where defenders got lost and gave up open layups, there were a lot of mid-range jumpers that went down where it looked to me like the Vols player was just shooting over an Ag defender who was contesting the shot, but was late. Harrison led the Vols with 21. Burdick had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
- The extremely thin silver lining may be Courtney Walker getting out of her slump. After starting 1-6, she ended up leading all scorers with 25 points on 12-24 shooting. It was a bit of a shock to see CWalk finish below .500 from the FT line, but she only had 3 attempts. She played all 40 minutes.
- I guess it's a sign of high expectations that despite 8 assists and only 2 turnovers, it seemed like JJ didn't have a good game. I think she and Coach Blair would agree. Jones and backup Curtyce Knox each had the ball stolen from them by Andraya Carter in ways that we are more used to doing to others.
- Achiri fought hard and was 2 points short of her third double double in a row. 8 points and 10 boards.
- With the illness going around the team, I'm not sure about the usage of the roster, but Jada wound up playing 34 minutes. She scored 8 but was only able to get 2 boards vs the tall and athletic Vols. Rachel was only in for 4 minutes, while Khaalia, who was known to be ill, didn't play at all. Tori Scott and Curtyce Knox got the most minutes off the bench, which was outscored by the Tenn bench 25-2.
- Misleading stat of the game: Tennessee only outrebounded the Ags by 6 and we broke even on the offensive boards:
you didn't kill us on the boards, for once, for one reason--you made every shot. That's a misnomer, sometimes, when you're looking at `Well, you stayed with them on the boards.' Not really. They still rebound the ball better than any team in the league.
- Gary Blair in the postgame
Coach Blair had some other quotes involving pretzels, and shooting ducks while at or not at the carnival, but I'm not sure what he actually said.
- Sunday Jan 11 Noon CDT
- Reed Arena
- ESPNU, WTAW 1620AM
This team has unlimited potential, and we have yet to play our best basketball. We have been known for that team to get started and be able to reel off seven consecutive wins. We've done that in the SEC, but I don't want us to wait until we get down and our backs are against the wall. This team has shown that they have a lot of fight in them. We've shown that we can score a lot of points in a short period of time. On the flip side of that, we've also shown that we can give up a lot of points in a short period of time.- LSU Coach Nikki Caldwell before the Vandy game
Giving up lots of points in a short period of time works for me! The game on Sunday honors the 40th anniversary of women's sports at A&M. Coach Blair has promised that a lot of the former WBB players will be there.