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Bears hold off Aggies

Published: Monday, February 27, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07

women basketball

Matthew Wong — THE BATTALION

A&M attempts to retrieve a loose ball from Baylor at Reed Arena Monday night.

The No. 11 Aggies pushed the undefeated No. 1 Lady Bears farther than any team has this season in front of 10,265 fans — the third-largest crowd in program history — coming back from 15 down to take the lead in the second half. But the top team in the country responded, out-dueling the Aggies in a free throw heavy contest, 69-62.

A&M (20-8, 11-6) trailed 25-10 out of the gate, allowing 6-foot-8 Baylor junior center Brittney Griner to have her way in the interior. Griner would check out of the game after recording her second personal foul well before halftime, opening a door the Aggies would seize to the tune of a 28-10 run spanning into the second half that allowed the Aggies to take their first lead of the game, 38-37.

A&M head coach Gary Blair said that his team has improved since taking a 71-48 thrashing in Waco earlier this season.

"That's the best basketball game that's been in here this year," Blair said. "We've gotten better since we got embarrassed in Waco. This is a team that's a work in progress."

The Aggies were eventually undone by an inability to convert from the free throw line. Blair's unit stepped to the line 19 times, making only nine. The Lady Bears (30-0, 17-0), however, made 23 of 28 attempts.

Senior guard Sydney Carter said the team must improve its free throw shooting.

"Free throws can win a game," Carter said. "We have to be better."

Sophomore guard Odyssey Sims scored a career-high 25 points for the Lady Bears, matching Griner's 25 for the game high. Sims took over in key stretches for Baylor when Griner was relegated to the bench due to fouls.

Sims said she knew she needed to be a leader when Griner went out.

"I knew I had to lead my team, keep the ball in my hands and be aggressive on the offensive end," Sims said.

Foul trouble ravaged what was otherwise a productive front line for the Aggies. Sophomore center Karla Gilbert fouled out with 12 minutes to play, and junior center Kelsey Bone was limited to 24 minutes due to fouls.

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said the fouls were called both ways.

"I thought there were too many fouls called on both teams, and we couldn't get in the flow of the game, but if it's called both ways you live with it," Mulkey said.

Senior forward Adaora Elonu helped ignite the Aggie run before intermission, going 5-5 from the field in the first half. Four Aggies reached double figures in scoring, led by senior guard Tyra White's 14 points. A&M's 46.4 percent shooting was the best any team has managed against Baylor this season.

Blair said he is happy with his team.

"They're the best in the country," Blair said. "Let's worry about A&M. Let's give a little bit of credit for our team on how hard they played and how active that crowd was."

Bone said the show of support from the fans helped the team's performance.

"The Twelfth Man spirit carried us tonight and that was important for us," Bone said. "We knew we couldn't let this crowd down."

The Aggies came within a point with less than four minutes to play, 61-60. Moments later, an Aggie pass was deflected and seemed to be headed out of bounds before striking the head of a referee to remain in play. Sims corralled the loose ball for a layup and the foul put the Lady Bears up by a score of 65-60.

Blair said that he wished the referees would consult with each other on controversial plays.

"Ask for help on a controversial call," Blair said. "That's all I ask for, and they say it's not reviewable but at least go ask the other officials what they saw."

Blair said that the officials weren't the reason for his team's loss.

"Officiating didn't beat us, Baylor beat us," Blair said.

Monday's loss marked the last scheduled game in the storied rivalry. Should each team win their half of the bracket in the upcoming Big 12 tournament, they could meet in the championship game.

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