Aggies press for comeback
Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07
The No. 14 Aggie women's basketball team will welcome the Oklahoma State Cowboys Saturday, albeit with a heavy heart as coaches, players and fans reflect on the deaths of dear friends to the Aggie basketball program.
Nov. 18, 2011, Oklahoma State head coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash, along with two others, while traveling to Arkansas on a recruiting visit. The tragedy forced the Cowgirls to cancel two games, and led to the interim appointment and later confirmation of head coach Jim Littell.
A&M head coach Gary Blair said that he and Budke trace their histories back to Louisiana Tech, calling Budke the person he's been the closest to in this league since they both joined. Blair said that Serna was one of coaching's young rising stars.
"Life is precious," Blair said. "We must enjoy it and we must respect it because it can be taken away at any time. I hope the basketball world and the sports world will honor Coach Budke and Miranda in the right way and help the rest of us realize how special our families and the extended families of our teams are."
Drawing comparisons to a tragedy experienced by A&M, Blair said the crash occurred exactly twelve years after the Aggie Bonfire collapse.
"The man upstairs doesn't tell us when and it's just a tremendous tragedy and loss for Oklahoma State and their families," Blair said.
Meanwhile, the Aggies will look to avoid a second straight loss to the Cowboys after falling 57-53 in Stillwater, Okla. in January.
With five games remaining in the Big 12 conference season, the 9-4 Aggies are locked in a dead heat for second place in the conference with Oklahoma, also 9-4. Should the Aggies hope to seize control of second place, a home game against the 13-9 (5-8 Big 12) Cowgirls would seem to be a must-win.
In their previous meeting, sophomore guard Tiffany Bias poured in 14 points for the Cowgirls, off-setting a solid 15-point outing by Aggie senior guard Tyra White. The Aggies forced 28 turnovers but coughed the ball up 26 times of their own in the loss.
The Aggies rebounded from a beating in Waco at the hands of No. 1 Baylor with a furious late rally on the road against Missouri Tuesday for a 56-52 win. A&M scored 11 straight points during the last four minutes of that game to overcome a poor-shooting night and a barrage of Missouri three-pointers.
Freshman guard Alexia Standish had one of her best games in an Aggie uniform, netting a career-best 11 points, including a game-tying three-pointer with less than two minutes to play and two free throws to seal the win.
Oklahoma State comes off a similar throttling to Baylor, falling 83-52. The Cowgirls' recent free-fall has dropped them to next-to-last in the conference standings, trailing only winless 0-13 Missouri.
Without a single senior on their roster, the Cowgirls are among the youngest units in the conference. Freshman forward Liz Donohoe leads her team in scoring with 12.5 points per game. Bias adds 11.8 points per game and junior forward Toni Young's 10.8 points per game is good for third on the team.
Bias's main strengths may be her distributing and defense, as her 6.67 assists per game and 2.95 steals per game each rank second among eligible Big 12 players. Donohoe is the top free-throw shooter in the conference, connecting on 92.6 percent of her attempts from the charity stripe.
Nearly all of A&M's offensive production comes from a quartet of upperclassmen, as White (13.7), junior center Kelsey Bone (12.2), senior forward Adaora Elonu (11.5) and senior guard Sydney Carter (11.4) each score better than 10 points per game. In all but one of the Aggies' 24 games thus far this season, the team's leading scorer has been one of these four experienced threats.