After Monday's win vs Bama, Coach Blair spent the night at the emergency room with pain in his ribs from the persistent cough he's been fighting for most of 2015. He was treated and released at 6AM after being medicated enough to make him miss practice for the first time in 40 years or so. Associate Coach Kelly Bond-White was also out for Tuesday's practice.
The team made it to Lexington to find the weather outside was frightful. I watched from the warm comfort of my Texas home using the SECN+ streaming on my Apple TV. Unfortunately the synchronization made it hard to avoid the homer UK announcers.
The Ags starting lineup has stabilized with Hillsman, Ade, Williams, Walker, and Jones. The Ags scored first but then UK jumped out by hitting some 3s vs our unexpected 2-3 zone. It was 16-14 at the second media timeout. Kentucky held a 2-6 point lead until Blair went with a lineup with Jada in the post and Tavarsha Scott-Williams in. Suddenly Jones was finding people wide open in the lane for layups off pick and roll plays or when the double team came out up top before the D rotated. The Ags finished the half on a 8-0 run to go into the locker room up 7, despite 1-8 shooting from Walker. Courtney Williams led all scorers with 12, but the 10 points off the bench from Jada (6) and Tavarsha (4) were big.
The Ags had a slight rebounding edge at 23-22. Each team had 9 turnovers and 3 blocked shots. The 32 points in the paint for A&M accounted for a 51% FG%. Meanwhile, the D held the Cats to 32%. The Ags did not attempt a 3-pointer; why bother when you've got layups?
Halftime score 38-31 A&M
UK inserted Jen O'Neill into the second half starting lineup while the Ags went back to the initial starters. The Ags stretched the lead to 10 on a reverse layup by Jones. Kentucky cut it to 43-34 when Linnae Harper was only able to hit 1 of 2 FTs after being fouled on a hard drive. Neither team scored again before the 15:48 media timeout. Kentucky cut the lead again but a couple of putbacks by Ade gave the Ags a 47-36 lead. The Ags got the lead to 18 with defense and by continuing to go inside. The rebounding margin grew to 37-30 by the 11:36 timeout with the score 54-38. Kentucky went to a 2-3 zone but still allowed Khaalia to make a strong post move to give the Ags a 20 point lead.
Blair went to his bench with about 6 minutes to go. Achiri moved to the post with Tavarsha, Jennings, Knox and Jones. UK cut into the lead to 72-53 and the Ags looked ineffective on offense so Williams came back in for Chelsea. The Cats whittled away at the lead while the Ags tried to run out the clock. Kentucky got it to 10 with under a minute left. The Ags had a little trouble with the press, but were able to force the Cats to foul Walker and Jones. CWalk and JJ were perfect from the line to hold off the comeback.
Final score: Ags 81 Wildcats 69
I did not expect us to win as convincingly as we did. Kentucky under Matthew Mitchell has been very tough at home, and this was only their second loss of the year on their home court. The other was by 1 pt to the Lady Vols. The game was important for the prospects of both teams for SEC tourney seeding (see below).
- 52 points in the paint
- The final stats are a bit deceptive. Walker and Makayla Epps each had 19 points to lead the two teams, but both did a lot of their scoring after the Ags had built their lead. Epps had a quick 8 in the first 4.5 minutes when UK built their early lead, but was shut out from there until she made 1 of 2 FTs with just over 10 minutes left and the Ags up 20. Walker's first bucket tied the score at 26 in the first half, but that was her only scoring before the intermission. Walker did contribute a lot to stretching the lead in the second half and icing it at the end. But the player of the game for me was Jones, with 12 points and 8 assists. In addition to those 8 several entry passes turned into putback opportunities for Ade and Hillsman, and her D was key to keeping the Cats down.
- This has to be the best game of the season for the post position. Khaalia, Jada, and Rachel combined for 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Most of the production came from Hillsman and Terry, who showed that talk of her getting less playing time going forward may have been premature.
- All 5 starters for the Ags scored in double digits.
- 52 points in the paint
- Rebounding overall was great. The Ags held a 1 board margin at halftime and then dominated the boards 26-15 in the second half. Ade had 10 of her 13 boards after the break.
- Achiri Ade is another candidate for player of the game. Achiri had a double-double with 12 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks and no turnovers. Achiri's offensive rebounding and putback baskets in the second half were a big part of pulling away.
- 52 points in the paint
- While watching the game I thought the D was outstanding. Our SBN friends at A Sea of Blue were in shock at how the Cats missed so many layups; in my eyes some of that was because they were rushing to beat the challenges from our defenders. But it turns out that Kentucky's offensive performance was not that far out of line with their norms. The Cats shot 37.7% from the floor, which is only a bit below their season and conference averages of .397 and .387, respectively. The 69 shot attempts was slightly above their average of 68.1/g .
- This was Coach Blair's 50th win at A&M vs a ranked team.
- The win was a nice birthday gift from the team to Asst Coach Amy Wright.
- Today's pic is another stale one. It would have the virtue of showing Achiri vs a team that wears blue... but it was a Breast Cancer game at UK, so the Cats didn't wear blue. They wore pink. The Ags wore white with pink trim.
- Did I mention the 52 points in the paint?
Down the stretch:
gigem08's conference update for the men prompts me to review where the women stand as the regular season gets down to just 3 more games, and make some predictions. Not going to be as thorough but here's what I've got:
S. Carolina and Tennessee mathematically clinched the top two spots that everyone knew they would get on Thursday with wins. They could mail in the rest of the games and still be 1-2 in the regular season. The #2 Lady Gamecocks host the #6 Lady Vols on Monday, and then finish with #14 Miss State and #11 UK. They will be favored in all 3 but with 3 ranked opponents the Vols will not be out of it even if they lose on Monday. The Vols finish with Georgia and Vandy after going to Columbia.
The battle for the #3 and #4 seeds in the SEC tourney involves 3 teams currently at 9-4: the Ags, Mississippi State, and LSU. Due to the head to head win, Miss St. has the #3 seed as of today, but they have a game at S. Carolina on Feb 26. While the Gamecocks will have the disadvantage of short rest from a Monday night game vs the Vols compared to Vic's girls playing at Alabama on Sunday afternoon, chalk have the Gamecocks prevailing, which would project MSU to finish at 11-5. That means, barring other upsets, the March 1 LSU vs TAMU game in Baton Rouge could put the winner in the #3 slot for the SEC tourney. The loser would be tied with MSU. LSU would get the #4 seed based on head to head, while the Ags would drop to the #5 seed using the same tiebreaker with the Bulldogs.
A&M's win over Kentucky probably eliminates them from the #3 seed. With S. Carolina at the end of the season, the Wildcats most probable outcome is 10-6, and road games at Mississippi and Arkansas have upset potential if UK is hitting a wall (Coach Mitchell expressed concern about whether the Cats are playing as hard as they should be after the losses to Tennessee and A&M). Pencil the Cats into the #6 slot. A&M has had a tough schedule with ranked opponents on the road, but UK has to play both S. Carolina and Tennessee twice.
There's another logjam for the #7-12 slots. Georgia, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Vandy are tied at 5-8. Mizzou and Florida are a game back at 4-9. Of the 5-8 teams, I think Vandy has the most favorable schedule; Ole Miss has the toughest. Alabama and Auburn bring up the rear.
So, my Maroon-tinted projection for the final standings and seeds in Little Rock:
- S. Carolina 16-0
- Tennessee 15-1
- A&M 12-4
- LSU 11-5
- Miss State 11-5
- Kentucky 10-6
- Vandy 7-9
- Florida 6-10
- Arkansas 6-10
- Georgia 6-10
- Ole Miss 5-11
- Mizzou 4-12
- Alabama 3-13
- Auburn 0-16
Up Next: BTHO Breast Cancer!
- Sunday Feb 22 3PM CST
- Reed Arena
- SEC Network, WTAW 1620 AM
- #22 6-0 Rs-Sr F Kayla Lewis is the only senior on the Gators. She's the leading rebounder, grabbing 6.8 boards/game while scoring 9.4 ppg (2nd on the team)
- #44 6-3 Fr F Haley Lorenzen or #1 6-0 So W Ronnie Wiliams. Williams is the leading scorer, averaging 10 ppg, and is second on the team in rebounds but she usually comes off the bench. Lorenzen has started 18/26 games.
- #23 6-2 Fr G Brooke Copeland scored 11 vs Miss State but was quiet vs Vandy.
- #13 5-6 RS-Jr G Cassie Peoples is just behind Lewis in scoring. She's the distibuter and leads the team in assists. She leads the team in steals.
- #4 5-6 RS-Jr G Carlie Needles scores 8.3 ppg and grabs 4.8 rebounds/game.