I'm happy to report that AT&T's 4G coverage is good enough from Tucson to the Biosphere 2 to listen to the Ags via the KZNE stream the whole way. I was a bit antisocial toward my fellow conferees on the shuttle, but at least I restrained myself from yelling at my iPhone.
It was another breast cancer game, which Ole Miss calls the "Tickled Pink at the Tad Pad" game, after the C.M. 'Tad' Smith Coliseum, where the Rebels play Men's and Women's Bouncy Ball. This promo was so popular that there were only 8,310 empty seats available in the Tad (capacity 8,867).
Ole Miss had to call a timeout about 3.5 minutes into the game as the Ags jumped out to an 8-4 lead. An early 4 pt deficit seems like it was early to call a timeout, but the 3 turnovers committed in that time on steals by Jordan Jones and Courtney Walker may have called for some early regrouping. The Rebel Bears did, in fact, briefly rally to tie the game at 10 before A&M started exploiting the fact that Ole Miss really had nobody who could guard either Courtney Williams or Karla Gilbert. Williams (13) and Gilbert (8) scored 21 points the rest of the half. The other 7 came from Courtney Walker (4), Tavarsha Scott-Williams (2), and Jordan Jones (1). Tia Faleru had 7 points on 3-4 shooting. McFarland had 6 points and 5 turnovers. The halftime score was 38-24
The Ags have had trouble keeping their focus when they get a big lead all year, and the start of the second half was yet another case. Ole Miss opened the half with a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 38-33. The Ags missed 5 layups, 2 free throws, and 2 jumpers before Coach Blair called a timeout at the 15:53 mark. The Ags outscored the Rebs 10-4 before the media timeout at 11:28, and stretched the lead to 17 when Williams hit a layup at 9:11. The lead fluctuated but never went below 10 after that. But the Ags didn't pull away either. A couple of free throws by Jones at the end finished the scoring to give the Ags a 73-61 win.
The good is clearly a road win in a trap game. The not so good is the sloppy play and lapses on both offense and defense in the second half. On the offensive side, the scoring drought at the start of the second half was frustrating, and A&M also got very little scoring production from the bench over the whole game - just 2 points on Tavarsha's first half bucket and 1 assist from Curtyce. Perhaps the bigger concern is that after holding the Rebs to 10-30 shooting in the first half, the Ole Miss made 16-32 in the second. The Ags let Tia Faleru get a double double; her 21 points were above her season average of 16.8, and she got her 21 on 10-18 shooting. Half her made shots were layups.
But the Ags didn't need much scoring from the bench. Courtney Williams was just short of her career high with 26 points. CWill also had only 1 turnover and avoided foul trouble. Karla had a double-double with 21 points and 10 boards. She was credited with 1 block but that should be revised to 2. Either way, she moved ahead of Danielle Adams in career blocked shots. Courtney Walker added 13 points for the Ags. JJ and Curtyce did a great job on Valeria McFarland holding her below her season average and forcing her into 8 turnovers.
And despite Ole Miss being 1-12 in the SEC, it's a road win.
With only 3 games left, the absolute worst the Ags can do in the regular season is 11-5. Everyone else except S. Carolina and Tennessee, who both won big on Thursday, already has 6 conference losses and thus are mathematically eliminated from the regular season race.
Up Next: Kentucky @Reed
The Cats were picked to contend for the SEC title and started strong going 12-1 in nonconference with a 4OT win against Baylor and a win against Louisville. Then the conference schedule started and the Wildcats started losing unexpected games. A big question this season has been "what's wrong with Kentucky?" as they dropped 5 conference games. Losing @S. Carolina was not a shock, but losses to Alabama and Georgia and getting swept by Florida were surprises. So was barely getting out of Auburn with a 2 point win. An obvious speculation is that UK has been hurt more than other teams by the new freedom of movement rules. Last year UK committed 19.97 fouls/game and had 10 players foul out in 36 games. This season they are committing 20.76 fouls/game (slightly less if you count the 4OT game as more than 1), and have already had 9 players foul out in 25 games. Last season, in SEC play the Cats averaged 76.9 and gave up 63.0 ppg. This season it's 72.9 and 68.2. Ky is still forcing 22 turnovers/game vs 23.7 a year ago.
Part of how the season has gone may have been related to losing starting F DaNesha Stallworth for several weeks after her knee required arthroscopic surgery after the Baylor game. Stallworth returned on Jan 5 vs Florida and was back in the starting lineup by the Jan 9 loss at S. Carolina. Other hypotheses have been that they miss A'Dia Mathies more than was expected and that they miss the presence of Insell, who coached the guards. Or that other teams have adapted to playing UK - but note that this doesn't explain losing to a first-year coach at Bama.
It seemed like Kentucky might have turned it around by taking down the Lady Vols on Sunday, but the Cats gave the Ags no help in the standings on Thursday, getting demolished by South Carolina at home, 81-58. Getting eliminated from contention had to be expected, but getting beaten by 20+ at home was not. We'll see on Sunday how the Wildcats react to this. Check out SBN's UK site A Sea of Blue to see if Cats fans have any predictions for Sunday.
I hope a lot of the GBH readership catches the last regular season home weekend game at Reed. Unfortunately, I'll be on another airport shuttle at tip-off time.
- 1PM CST at Reed Arena.
- TV: ESPN2
- WBB parking is usually free, but not for this game due to Aggie Baseball at the same time.
- The game is the first "Bookmark Game" co-sponsored by the A&M Library. This involves free tix for school kids and discounts for their parents.