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A&M falls to No. 9 Penn State, 63-58

Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 02:11

Youthful mistakes and missed opportunities were the story of the night for the No. 13 A&M women’s basketball team as the Aggies fell 63-58 to No. 9 Penn State at Reed Arena.

Leading for the majority of the game Wednesday night, the Aggies couldn’t generate enough separation from the Nittany Lions to come away with their first victory of the season. A&M led Penn State by five at the half but would falter in the final six minutes, never hitting a field goal through that stretch.

Gary Blair said the A&M Achilles’ heel was the disparity in experience.

“The difference between junior and senior starters is they want the ball down the stretch,” Blair said. “They don’t turn it over and they make the right plays. [Penn State] did a good job in that regard. We have too many kids that don’t know set offenses. We’re having to scramble and improvise all over. Somewhere freshmen have to grow up.”

The Aggies couldn’t buy a shot at times, struggling to put points on the board in sizable stretches en route to posting a paltry 34.4 field goal percentage. With few veterans on the roster, six underclassmen would see playing time and the inexperienced revealed itself in the form of 23 Aggie turnovers.

Junior center Kelsey Bone said the team is learning as young players gain more experience.

“A lot of people emphasize the fact that we have six freshmen,” Bone said. “You have to understand the entire team is growing up right before everybody’s eyes. We’ve got seniors that haven’t played yet and they’re freshmen in a sense, too. We can’t let games like this work against us.”

Bone and fellow junior center Karla Gilbert were the only Aggies to score in the double digits with 16 and 10 points, respectively. The remaining players to receive playing time would combine to shoot 12 of 48 from the field. Though A&M would force 19 turnovers, Penn State outscored the Aggies in fast-break points 16-6.

Sophomore and veteran point guard Alexia Standish said freshmen aren’t always aware how to position themselves offensively.

“Coach Blair runs a lot of plays,” Standish said. “It can be tough on a freshman knowing where to be at the right time. They’re doing a good job, but like we keep emphasizing. They’re just freshmen in a game where there’s a lot of pressure on them. Things like that are just going to come with time and playing together.”

With No. 2 Connecticut on the docket for Sunday, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for a youthful A&M squad searching for its first victory. Already faltering to two Top 10 foes in Louisville and Penn State, the Aggies have yet to face their toughest non-conference test yet.

Blair said winning the early challenges isn’t the important goal in the big picture.

“We wouldn’t be having this conversation if we played three different opening games,” Blair said. “But would we get better as a team and as a program? We were hoping for whatever we could get; we aren’t at that level yet. We have a chance to get there and we will continue to work. I’m not going to give up on anybody out there.”


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