We barely made it to Reed in time for tipoff as a train backed up traffic on Wellborn as we were trying to get to the arena. This did allow us to hear Coach Blair's pregame interview with Gabe Bock in its entirety instead of our usual rush to the doors before he finished. In that pregame chat, Coach Blair said a few things that came back to haunt the Ags:
- Mizzou is a team he hates to play at this point of the season (esp. in a tourney)
- If you don't get a big lead on them, they can come back on you in a hurry with the way they hit 3-pointers.
- He voted for Mizzou's Jordan Frericks for All-SEC
The Corps was at Reed in full force, and there was a haze from fireworks for the first several minutes.
As Coach predicted, Mizzou started off in a packed in man D. The Ags seemed determined to get the ball inside anyway, and while this did lead to some early points for Khaalia Hillsman, the Ags were cold overall; at one point I looked up and our shooting percentage was something like 18%. In addition to the cold shooting to start the game, transition D was terrible and the Mutigers got several breakaway layups on situations where you really shouldn't see breakaway layups. It was 17-10 Mizzou at the first TV timeout. The Ags rallied to tie the score at 19, with Coach using his bench liberally, and used a lineup with both PGs in the game. Seniors Tori Scott and Tavarsha Scott-Williams got playing time, along with Junior Chelsea Jennings and Soph Center Jada Terry. The lineup was Jones, Knox, Walker, Scott-Williams and Terry when Jordan Frericks put back her own miss to put Mizzou back up 24-21. A couple of possessions later Hillsman and Ade came back in. Curtyce pushed the ball up court after a Bree Fowler miss and Walker scored at 5:14 on a pull up jumper from the left side to cut it to 24-23.
As Mizzou was bringing the ball back up the court. Jones tried to steal the ball cutting in front of Maddie Stock as Stock went behind her back and avoided contact. But Jones landed awkwardly on her right leg as her body was twisting toward the defensive end. She collapsed to the floor grabbing her knee. Play was stopped and the crowd went silent as you could hear her crying out in pain. She batted Radar Ricke's hand away as he tried to check the knee. Eventually she managed to get to a sitting position and the trainers carried her off into the locker room.
Williams came in for Jones and Knox moved to the point. The score stayed at 24-23 until Frericks hit one of two FTs at the 2:30 mark to make it 25-23. The Ags then went on a 7-0 run to make it 30-25 with 18.7 seconds remaining. The last points of the run came on CWill hitting one of two FTs. Jennings was called for a foul as she ran through a pick set by Frericks at the top of the key. Frericks cut the Aggie lead to 3 with two FTs.
It looked like A&M would take at least a 3 point lead into the intermission with 9.8 seconds and the ball. But Mizzou surprised the Ags with backcourt zone pressure that denied the inbounds pass to Knox. Williams made a terrible inbounds pass to no one as Walker and Scott were late coming back to help. Williams blocked a 3 point attempt from the right side by Morgan Stock but the ball fell right to Frericks, who hit a short jumper to make it 30-29 A&M at half.
Frericks led all scorers with 14 points in the first period. She also had 7 boards. For the Ags, Williams and Jones had 7 each. Before the injury, I spent some of the game focusing on the D Jones was playing on Mizzou's Senior 3-point gunner, Morgan Eye. Eye must have felt like Jones was her shadow, and when Jones went out Knox picked up the D where JJ left off. The lapses in the D were reflected in 7 fast break points and 11 second chance points for the Mutigers. The Ags improved their shooting to 44% after the abysmal start. Hillsman had 6 rebounds.
It seemed like Courtney Walker came out late for the second half warmups. I wonder if she was checking on Jones in the locker room Sydney Colson gathered the team in a huddle and gave them a pep talk before the final period began. Obviously, Knox replaced JJ in the second half, while the rest of the starters returned. The half started with Hillsman hitting a putback to make it a 3 point lead again. She had another a few possessions later on a missed Knox runner. Then Khaalia made a great save but was shaken up as she was fouled hard while trying to score. She hit 1 of 2 and then had to limp off to be replaced by Terry. Every time the Ags would stretch the lead, Mizzou would fight back. The Tigers took the lead at 36-35 after the first TV timeout of the second half. The teams traded baskets and it was 43-41 A&M when Mizzou called a timout with 12:41 remaining. A 6-0 run by the Ags forced another Mizzou timeout with 10:01 remaining and A&M up 51-45. It was 52-46 Ags with 8:18 left when Mizzou used their third timeout of the half.
Mizzou cut the lead to 2 when Frericks went around Hillsman for a layup at 6:52. Hillsman drew a foul in the paint on the next possession and hit both FTs. Then Morgan Stock hit a pair of 3s around a pair of Walker FTs to tie the game at 58. The second came as Jennings left Stock on the right side to double team a drive by Sierra Michaelis, who had been beating her defender on similar moves down the right side of the lane.
Knox hit the only A&M 3 pointer of the game to give A&M a 63-60 lead at 4:09. In fact, it was the first 3-pointer by the Ags since Feb 16. Curtyce was called for a foul on Maddie Stock the next possession. From my seats in on the A&M side of the court, it looked like Stock just fell down without contact. Watching the replay on WatchESPN as I write this, the call does not look any better. The camera doesn't catch the whole play, but if there was a foul, Curtyce fouled Stock with her back while she was running away from her. The camera does catch Curtyce's reaction, and during the subsequent media timeout Coach Blair gave the ref an earful and the official then retreated to the far end to explain his hallucination to his crew.
Lindsay Cunningham blew by Knox on the right side for a backdoor cut and there was no help to stop a layup to give Mizzou the lead. Ade was called for an off balance moving pick on the next possession as Walker started her move before Ade was set. Another Morgan Stock 3 poiter stretched the Mizzou lead to 4 at 67-63 with 2:53 to go. The Ags got stops on the next couple of possessions and drew several fouls, but Knox and Hillsman were only able to hit 2/6 FTs in that stretch to cut the Mizzou lead to 67-65. The last attempts came after Knox stripped the ball from Stock and Frericks fouled Curtyce as she tried to start the break. Curtyce hit the first FT and missed the second. But Tori Scott rebounded the last missed FT and after a timeout with 56.8 seconds left Williams hit a short J from the right of the key to tie it at 67.
Mizzou used their last timeout with 24.9 remaining and the score tied. The Ags got a stop as Michaelis tried to go into the right of the lane with the shot clock running down and Knox got the rebound. Frericks dove at Knox on the sideline and committed a foul. Knox drained both to give the Ags a 69-67 lead with 7.7 seconds to go.
Blair called a timeout to set the D. Watching the replay made me wonder whether what he called (a soft man D) had any relationship to what actually happened. The Ags moved up to apply token pressure but nobody was near Sierra Michaelis as she cut across the court, took the inbounds pass and raced down the right side. Blair expected Michaelis to get the ball but planned to have Tori cover her. But that Ags switched and Courtney Williams ended up chasing Michaelis down the right side; CWill stayed even but was not able to stop Michaelis' momentum. Walker was in the frontcourt guarding another shooter, but by the time Michaelis reached midcourt, Williams, Knox, Scott, and Ade were all running back to get on D but none of them were set up. Meanwhile, Stock, who threw the inbounds pass was trailing the play. When Michaelis got to the baseline on the right side of the lane, Williams had her covered, but Ade, and Knox triple team her... without being in her face enough to her to impair her movements. Meanwhile Stock had set up to take the kickout pass beyond the arc. Stock stunned the crowd by draining the winning trey, which went through the net with 0.1 seconds left.
Dagger. Ball game.
In the postgame, Amy Wright said that Curtyce was supposed to be defending Maddie Stock, which is consistent with how the Ags had been taking up their assignments all game. But it seems to me like once the initial pressure broke down, she wasn't the only one to panic when Michaelis drove the length of the court. Maddie Stock was the most open shooter, but there's a moment when it seems like all five Ags are looking at Michaelis while Tigers are gaining positional advantages. Those others could only tie the game, though. I have to imagine that Coach Blair and everyone else on the coaching staff was emphasizing to not give up a 3.
In the postgame, Coach Robin Pingeton said it was the same play they used against Bama.
She went down. My heart went down with her
- Coach Blair on Jones' injury
- Jones came out to watch from the bench a few minutes into the second half with her knee wrapped and with a set of crutches. She used the crutches to hobble into the timeout huddles. She is expected to get an MRI on Friday morning. The Mizzou players all hugged her and gave her encouragement in the handshake line at the end of the game.
- As Coach said in the postgame, the last shot wasn't as important as allowing Mizzou to shoot 61% in the second half on a mix of layups and 3s. Jordan Frericks was incredible. 25 points and 12 rebounds. She's not that big but she moves really well without the ball and hustles. And she's just a sophomore.
- The less heralded Stock sister was deadly from behind the arc, going 3-8 for 9 points. Prior to the game-winner, Jones and Knox had done an exceptional job defending the two main 3 point shooters on Mizzou: Morgan Eye and Maddie Stock. Eye was shut out for the game and was not even on the floor in crunch time.
- Khaalia Hillsman had a double double with 16 points and 11 boards.
- Curtyce Knox had 12 ponts and 8 boards.
- Mizzou has been pulled about one upset of a ranked team per year since moving to the SEC. Last year it was #16 Vandy. In 2012-13 they knocked off both #14 S. Carolina and #9 Tennessee. Unfortunately it was us this season.
- Earlier in the day, Tori Scott was named to the all-SEC community service team
- The loss prevented the Ags from finishing the regular season unbeaten at Reed.
- Sunday March 1, 1PM CST
- Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, LA
- ESPNU; WatchESPN; WTAW 1620 AM
The last time we saw LSU, it was in the second game of the season for star guart Dannielle Ballard's after her return from a suspension. Ballard now leads the Lady Corndogs in both scoring (13.8 ppg before Thursday's game) and rebounding (7.3 rpg). While the Ags were playing Mizzou, both Mississippi State and LSU were losing, to S. Carolina and Ole Miss, respectively. It was LSU's 3rd loss in their last 4 games, with the only win being vs rapidly collapsing Georgia. This means that despite the loss, the Ags can lock up a pair of byes with a win on Sunday in Baton Rouge. Depending on what MSU does in their game with Ole Miss, A&M could finish 3rd, or 4th with a win... but a loss would mean 5th place no matter what happens with in the WBB version of the Egg Bowl.
The big question for the Ags, of course, is how bad Jones' injury is. Stay tuned.