Aggies begin defense of title
A&M starts the big dance with win, faces SEC’s Arkansas Monday
Published: Monday, March 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07
The No. 3 seed A&M women’s basketball team kicked off its national title defense Saturday, defeating the Albany Great Danes in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 69-47, at Reed Arena.
“I’m proud of our basketball team,” A&M head coach Gary Blair said. “When we’re not our best, we were still able to win by 20. We had some kids step up in the second half.”
Albany came to College Station with a 10-game winning streak and showed a strong will to fight in the first half, going toe-to-toe with the 13th-ranked Aggies. A&M entered halftime holding a 30-26 lead.
“I just think they had a great game plan,” Blair said. “Sometimes the team that’s favored plays not to lose and they don’t deliver the first blow. That’s what you have to do when you’re the stronger team and supposedly the better team, you have to deliver the first blow, which we didn’t in this game.”
The Aggies came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, going on a 17-4 run midway through the period. During that run, the Aggies got four points from senior point guard Tyra White, who missed the past three games due to a foot injury. White finished the game with 18 points and seven rebounds.
“Not being able to play in [the Big 12 tournament] last week was kind of rough for me. But I knew it was best for me to be able to wait for this tournament,” White said. “Last week I had a talk with Coach Harris that I needed to step up for the team because I’m kind of a leader. I don’t speak a lot, but I let my game speak for me.”
The Aggies used the run to take a 49-36 lead, combining strong defense and perimeter shooting to pull ahead of the Great Danes. A&M freshman guard Alexia Standish hit a pair of three-pointers and senior guard Sydney Carter added another to put the game out of reach. The Aggies forced three turnovers and three missed layups during the run, shifting momentum towards A&M.
“I think that our defense is what got us back in the game,” Standish said. “When we play hard, tenacious defense, usually our offense on the offensive end of the court goes well for us as well.”
Standish finished the game scoring 12 points, all from three-point shots, and senior forward Adaora Elonu contributed with 13 points and three steals. The Aggies, 23-10, forced a total of 24 turnovers, one shy of Albany’s season high. The Great Danes finished their season with a 23-10 record.
With the victory, the Aggies advanced to the second round, and will face future Southeastern Conference foe and No. 6 seed Arkansas. The Razorbacks advanced in their first round game by defeating the No. 11 seed Dayton Flyers, 72-55.
“[President] Obama has picked us to lose. We need to show the nation we’re defending national champions, and no one gives us any credit,” Blair said. “We’re not on ESPN. They have Baylor’s 2005 National Championship. They have all the other teams. They’re not expecting much from this basketball team. But if we can roll in here with about 9,000 fans, I’d like to show the country that we’re not last year’s team, we’re this year’s team. And I’m proud of this year’s team.”
The second round game between the Aggies and Razorbacks tips off at 8:30 p.m. Monday at Reed Arena.