Gary Blair predicted a close and hard fought game, and that's what we got on the SEC network on Sunday afternoon.
The Ags started Khaalia Hillsman in the post along with the usual lineup of Ade, Williams, Walker and Jones. The two teams played very close for most of the half. Clanga countered with Victoria Vivians, Martha Alwal, Dominique Deilingham, Jerica James, and Breanna Richardson. Both teams tried to establish the inside game early,, but for the Ags, it was the Courtney Walker show in the first half. Walker scored 19 points in the half on 6-11 shooting with a 3. She was also 6-6 from the FT line as the Ags took a 32-28 lead into the intermission. The overall 44% shooting by the As came from Walker plus 14 other FG attempts by the rest of the Ags. Hillsman was 2-4, Ade was 1-1 on a nice drive down the left side of the lane. Williams had another tough shooting performance, going 1-5.
The Lady Bulldogs were more balanced. Martha Alawal led the team with 6 despite having to sit for a large part of the period with 2 fouls. Two other MSU starters ended the half with 2 fouls. Vivians and Dillingham.
Alwal was the focus to start the second half. But the Ags were able to keep the lead and stretch it to 40-32 while drawing the 3rd and 4th fouls on Vivians, the MSU leading scorer for the season. MSU helped the Ags by hitting only 2-8 FTs during the stretch. MSU picked up their full court pressure and broke the run, but the Ags matched the defensive intensity and both teams struggled in the middle of the half to score.
MSU got into the bonus first and cut the lead to 3 on a pair of Morgan William FTs. William then tipped a ball away from Jones who was called for her 4th foul because Ref Bev Roberts' hallucinogens must have kicked in.
Walker was quiet until she hit a couple of FTs at 8:31. The refshow continued as Hillsman got called for her 4th while defending Alwal, and Walker got called for a questionable offensive foul. But Clanga couldn't capitalize as Kendra Grant turned it over and Curtyce was able to draw a foul on Grant before the 7:42 media timeout. At this point it was pretty remarkable that the Ags were still up 3 despite not scoring a FG since the 16:41 mark.
Curtyce missed the front end and Alwal cut the lead to 2 by making 1 of 2 after Knox was called for her 4th foul. William tied it on a drive. 44-44 with 6:40 left. The Bulldogs took the lead on a pair of FTs. Ade was fouled on an offensive board by Dillingham and cut it to 1. The Bulldogs couldn't control the rebound on the miss and CWill got the Ags first FG in forever. William got the lead back for MSU. Ade drew a 4th foul on Dillingham at 5:02. Ade hit both. Ags by 1. William took the lead back by splitting the D and hitting a runner in the lane with the shot clock running down.
William's drive led to JJ coming back in with 4 foul at 4:31. CWill hit Jada for a layup to make it 51-50 Ags. The Ags got a stop, but CWalk was called for traveling while juggling the ball on the outlet (questionable whether she had possession). Walker started finding holes in the D and drove to the bucket. She missed the first one, but the second time gave the Ags a 3 point lead. Alwal hit 1 of 2 from the FT line to make it a 2 point game.
The teams traded offensive fouls and it was 53-51 Ags with 1:28 left. Grant tied it with a long J. The Ags couldn't score as JJ missed a driving layup in traffic. MSU ball with 47 seconds left 53 all. Timeout MSU as the ball crossed halfcourt with 39.1 left. William had an open lane but pulled back and allowed JJ to force Vic to call another timeout. 28.6 seconds left. 12 on the shot clock.
The Ags got a stop and had two chances to hit the game winner, Williams couldn't hit from the right corner or after Ade tipped the board to her on the right FT line extended.
The Ags started the OT with 4 fouls on Jones, Hillsman, Mitchell, Knox, and Ade. But Dillingham was the first player to foul out on the Ags first possession on a pointless foul on JJ away from the ball. Coach Blair started with Rachel in the post in the OT. JJ hit both FTs and Williams made it 57-53 before getting called for her 4th foul. Grant cut it back to 2 from the FT line. Williams drew Grant's 4th personal on the next possession but only hit 1 of 2. Ade fouled out on a William drive and Tavarsha replaced her. But William missed both FTs. William fouled Rachel out on a play where Rachel was retreating the whole time. This time William hit both to make it a 1 point game. JJ drew a 3rd foul on William (who tried to flop). JJ hit 1 of 2. Ags got a stop and CWalk drew Grant's 5th.
Vivians, who had been shut down for most of the game, hit a 3 from the left corner with just under a minute left to take the lead by 1. Williams couldn't hit but Carter for MSU turned it over on the rebound.Timeout Ags 27.9 left.
Jones ran the clock down to about 10 (the chyron shot clock wasn't working) and gave it to Walker for a baseline J. It missed long. Tavarsha and Breanna Richardson battled for the rebound, which hit the floor just inside the baseline. Tavarsha dove out of bounds and flipped the ball back inbounds toward Jones, but Morgan William barely beat JJ in the air and tapped it forward where Savannah Carter was able to grab it. Ball game by inches. JJ fouled out trying to prolong the game, but it was too late.
Final score: Former students 63, Current Students 61.
I actually feel better about how we played in this loss than in the win vs Mizzou. Coach Vic has a nice team this season and it was a very even matchup and an entertaining game (there were 14 lead changes), even if the result was painful and the officiating was often bizarre.
- Courtney Walker led all scorers with 25 points, but had a hard time for much of the second half. She missed 7 jumpers and 3 layups while making only 1 FG. But she contributed in other ways. Walker defended Vivians from most of the game, and had 8 rebounds and 2 steals. One of the main forms of second guessing for this game is whether Blair should have rested CWalk more. She played 45 minutes and when she was missing in the second half it was hard to not think she was gassed. But the problem for Blair is that although we have a lot of depth at guard, many on our bench are more wing players than shooting guards. In particular, it seems that Tori Scott and Chelsea Jennings are more productive at the 3 than the 2, which is why the backup PG, Curtyce Knox, sometimes sees time as Walker's replacement at the 2. Knox played more minutes than any other reserve, but it was in relief of Jones.
- Courtney Williams' struggles continued. Earlier in the year, Williams carried the team when Walker was in a slump. Now it seems like the other channel of the CW network is in a funk, especially on the road. The fact that we've played our strongest opponents on the road is one factor, but 4-16 on Sunday came after 4-18 against a Mizzou team that is not on the same level. Although fans are frustrated by her shooting woes, Coach Blair leaves her on the floor partly in hopes that she will break out, but also because she's a much improved rebounder. Williams, Walker and Ade each grabbed 8 boards, and the Ags outrebounded the Bulldogs overall 49-45.
- Jordan Jones had only 4 assists, and worse, the whole team only had 5 (the other was from Williams). This mostly reflects the intensity of the D for the game on both sides. MSU had 8 assists for the game with the leader being F Breanna Richardson with 4. Richardson got credit for feeding Alwal in the post 3 times and a kickout to Dominique Dillingham. The 2 Bulldog PGs each had 1 assist.
- In the post, Khaalia Hillsman scored 5 and grabbed 13 boards, a career high. Rachel Mitchell showed less in the stat sheet, but she had a decent game in being an intimidator in the paint. Her first foul was a particularly dumb one, blatantly shoving a Bulldog. But there were others that I thought were marginal at best calls. In particular, I recall many announcers talking about how establishing position is not the same as standing still. There was a late call on Rachel where she was backing up in what Blair calls bank robber D: hands up. I thought Jada Terry did a nice job when she was needed with both Khaalia and Rachel in foul trouble in the second half.
- As noted in a previous bullet, both teams played killer D for most of the game. The Ags were held to 20% shooting in the second half, while Miss State shot 30.4% after the first intermission. Each team turned it over 14 times.
- Player of the game should probably be backup PG Morgan William for MSU. William had 15 points in 28 minutes of play, 2 steals and 6 boards. 6 boards! She's listed at 5' 5" and the announcers said she's probably not really that tall. More importantly, she changed the energy and momentum (even a little of that was benefiting from some favorable calls from the refs).
- This was the first time Coach Blair has lost to a former assistant coach. Earlier this season he suffered his first loss against anyone who had previously worked for him when the Ags lost to Washington. In the postgame with the ESPN hosts, Vic ended the interview with "Praise the Lord and Go Dogs".
Despite my desire to see positives in the Aggie play, the end result is just as bad for the team's postseason prospects. The Ags came into the game in the low 20s in RPI and missed a chance to move into 3rd place in the SEC standings. A&M is now alone in 6th place. The Ags have games remaining with 2 teams above us: Kentucky on the road and LSU at home. LSU, Miss State, and Kentucky all still have S. Carolina ahead of them, and UK and MSU play each other. Kentucky still has to get past the Lady Vols. So all is not lost in the quest for SEC tourney byes... but this would have helped.
- Arkansas Lady Razorbacks
- Thursday Feb 12 8PM
- Reed Arena
- SEC Network, KZNE AM1150
The last time the Ags played Arkansas, the women won on a buzzer beater. First year coach Jimmy Dykes got his first SEC road win against Alabama in their last game on Feb 1. They had a bye last Thursday, and were off on Sunday before getting Georgia on Monday night in a game that WBB fans will maybe watch a little bit of before tuning in to S. Carolina at UConn, which tips off an hour later. Updating the Hawgs starters is straightforward because they haven't changed, and they're still playing lots of minutes. The numbers have generally gone down a touch as the level of competition improved.
- #42 6-1 Sr F Jhasmin Bowen scoring average has gone from 11.8 ppg to 11.2 ppg and while rebounds have gone from 7.6 to 6.8 rebounds/game
- #33 6-0 Jr F Melissa Wolf is still the leading rebounder at 8.2 (prev 9.3)/game and also scores 9ppg.
- #0 6-3 So F Jessica Jackson is scoring 13.3 ppg. She had 18 vs the Ags in Fayetteville, but it was from 7-22 shooting, which included 2-11 from 3. Ill-advised 3 pointers may have been a key to the A&M win.
- #15 5-9 So G Kelsey Brooks is leading the SEC in scoring again at 16 ppg.
- #11 5-10 Sr G Callie Berna had 7 assists in the previous game. She's averaging just under 5 assists/g (second in the SEC to JJ) and 5.3 ppg.
The late start makes our game the nightcap for an SEC Network WBB doubleheader. Miss State and UK will be the early game on the SEC Network, while LSU plays at S. Carolina on FSN.