Aggies seek rivalry win vs. No. 1 Bears
Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07
The No. 11 Aggies have hosted 13 opposing teams in Reed Arena this season, sending 12 of those teams home with a loss. But none of those teams match up with No. 1 Baylor, who will take the floor in Reed Monday at 6 p.m. in the biggest home matchup of the season.
Baylor has won 29 games in a row, losing its last game in the Regional Finals of the NCAA National Championship Tournament to eventual national champion A&M. One of those Baylor wins came in a revenge match in Waco as the Lady Bears drubbed the Aggies 71-48 just over two weeks ago.
The Aggies have won six in a row on their home floor, however, including a 79-51 rout over Texas Tech Saturday in which the home team led by as much as 32.
After the game, A&M head coach Gary Blair said his team is better prepared for the Bears.
"We're going to be ready to give Baylor a whole lot better game than we gave them at their place," Blair said.
Center Brittney Griner has become synonymous with the success of the Lady Bears basketball team. The 6-foot-8 junior leads the conference in scoring with 22.6 points per game, nearly five points more than the nearest competitor to go with 9.7 rebounds per game. Griner leads the nation in blocks per game by a wide margin, swatting an average of 5.31 per game.
After his team lost in Waco, Blair said that Griner has improved since last season.
"She's a better free throw shooter, she's 20 pounds heavier and she's a lot better on the offensive boards this year," Blair said.
"She can play 40 minutes a game every game and she never takes a play off. To me, Griner is the best player that's ever played the game."
Griner's presence inside opens shooting opportunities for her teammates, including sophomore guard Odyssey Sims (14.4 points per game), Destiny Williams (10.0 points per game) and Kimetria Hayden (9.5 points per game). Sims leads the conference with 3.17 steals per game and knocks down a Big 12-best 39.7 percent of her attempts from beyond the three-point arc.
In the last matchup between the two teams, A&M senior guard and leading scorer buoyed the Aggie offense with 18 points — one of only two Aggies to reach double figures in scoring — but was dwarfed by the stat line of Griner, who posted 21 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks.
For the Aggies to be able to trump Baylor at home, they will likely need to lean on their conference-leading numbers in offensive rebounding and turnover differential while knocking down their outside shots.
Carter said after this season's loss in Waco the Aggies will have to match Baylor's aggressiveness.
"You can't be scared when you're playing a team like Baylor," Carter said. "They're always going to have that fire when they play us because I think that we have a respect both ways."
The Lady Bears have already secured the Big 12 regular season title and the number one seed in the Big 12 conference tournament, while the Aggies currently hold sole possession of second place. If the Aggies hold on for second place, the next time these two teams meet could be in the Big 12 conference championship.