The Ags started with Hillsman, Ade, Williams, Walker, and Knox. UALR's Cobbins hurt her ankle in practice, but was able to go anyway. The Ags got off to yet another slow start, with Ade getting a quick two fouls and going to the bench. Tavarsha Scott-Williams came in and played pretty well, but the rest of the Ags were struggling. The D was allowing UALR's Taylor Gualt and Kiera Clark to get an appalling number of open looks and go on a 7-0 run before Blair to called a timeout. Coach tried a variety of lineups to get things going and cut into the lead with a struggling Curtyce Knox on the bench and CWill playing the point.
Walker got her second foul on a questionable charge and the Trojans got ahead again. But defensive intensity ramped up and the Ags ended the half holding UALR scoreless after Gualt's J at the 4:53 mark.
Halftime score: Ags up 28-27. Gault had 14 for the Trojans before the break, while Kiera Clark added 9 of the bench. The rest of the Trojans only scored 4. Williams led the Ags with 9. Six other Ags scored. Despite a substantial size advantage, A&M only won the rebounding by 2. The Ags had 7 turnovers, 5 by Knox. UALR had 6.
Coming out of the break, I had the hope that the Ags would assert themselves and control the final period. Blair adjusted the lineup to start the second half, going small and Tori Scott on Gault. The Aggies lead lasted all of 55 seconds as Kaitlyn Pratt's second chance layup retook the lead for UALR. The lead went back and forth and the hope that the Ags would take control glimmered when Tori scored to give the Ags a 34-31 lead. That lasted all of 27 seconds before Gault hit a 3 to start a 9-0 Trojan run and another A&M timeout. Williams broke the drought with a pair of FTs after getting fouled on a putback attempt after the timeout, but the Ags couldn't get a stop.
Williams cut the lead to 3 with 6:37 left, but an offensive foul on Knox was followed by another 3 pointer by Gault. The Ags would not get closer again. With the lead 64-57 the Ags had one sequence where 5 attempts in the same possession were missed by 5 different Ags, ending with a foul on Tori when UALR's Kiera Clark grabbed the rebound. A late banked-in 3 from Walker kept it from being a double digit loss.
They were the best team on the floor. It had nothing to do with injuries or missed shots or whatever. Right now they're playing better basketball than us."
This was a bad loss where it seemed like all the worst things that have happened during the season showed up at an especially awful time.
- There's been concern about playing with focus and energy all season long. The coaches have talked about it. The players have talked about it. But the team looked flat again but didn't even have enough to make the kind of comeback attempt we saw in the last loss to LSU. The effort an energy were bad enough to be called out by the ESPN game announcers and by Kara Lawson and Rebecca Lobo in the studio.
- Courtney Williams tried to keep the Ags in it with a double double on her birthday - 23 points and 12 rebounds. At least she can go out with the seniors and legally drown their sorrows.
- A lot of criticism will be aimed at RS So Curtyce Knox, who had a poor game at PG with 6 turnovers to only 5 assists,8 points on 2-10 shooting, and some defensive and hustle lapses before fouling out. But it was a team loss. After being limited to only 13 minutes on the court by foul trouble, Ade was only able to contribute 4 rebounds and 0 points. Hillsman's 9 points and 10 boards in 26 minutes looks better than she did on the court, where she started the game by missing a short layup and had several other point blank misses. She also often looked even more lost on D than her teammates - the Ags were not prepared to handle the movement without the ball in UALR's motion offense. Walker got her 10 points thanks to the late 3, but was largely ineffective on both ends. I was struck by how the defense vs Gault often had their hands down, even after seeing her effectiveness and quick release.
- Blair tried a lot of different combinations, but there is plenty to second-guess about the coaching in both the game and overall for the season. While the options behind Knox were very limited, it was striking how he went with either Hillsman or the small lineup with Ade at the 5 instead of trying Jada (1 minute) or Rachel (6 minutes, all in the first half).
- Congrats to UALR on a great performance. Sigh.