A dynamic shooting game around the perimeter propelled No. 6 Texas A&M women’s basketball to an 80-70 win over No. 16 Tennessee.
Hazardous road conditions in College Station meant a reduced capacity in Reed Arena, but even with only 500 of the 12th Man in attendance the Aggies secured their seventh straight win and their eighth ranked win of the season — good for the most in the nation.
Senior guard Kayla Wells said playing with a reduced crowd definitely made a difference in the Aggies’ game.
“We had to kind of create our own energy,” Wells said. “I felt like in the beginning of the game I was kind of sleepwalking, just going through the motions and you can't be like that. We got some energy from our bench, and they did a great job encouraging us and trying to be loud and trying to create energy for ourselves. Making big plays created the energy and we just pulled it out.”
Heading into Sunday’s game the Aggies were forced to prepare for a Tennessee team that averages 21 offensive rebounds per game. The Vols’ big presence in the paint is highlighted by the performances of 6-foot-5 sophomore center Tamari Key and 6-foot-4 senior center Kasiyahna Kushkituah.
The combination of both Key and Kushkituah dominated down low for Tennessee in the first half, out-performing A&M in the paint and on the glass with a 7 rebound lead. Despite this, the Aggies kept the game tied 15-15 after the first quarter and 32-32 at the half.
Wells led the Aggies with nine points heading into halftime and a late first quarter three pointer was good for the 100th of her career. Wells, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the program record books for career three-point percentage, now moves up to No. 11 in the category of career three-point field goals made.
Also hot from beyond the arc was senior guard Destiny Pitts. Pitts was efficient from the floor, scoring a team-high and her season-high 18 points in only 18 minutes.
“[Tennessee] kind of struggled to pick and roll so we try to exploit that a little bit,” Pitts said. “It can be hard for them to step up or do the switch so when I'm able to play the four, I was able to stretch a little more. I had a big come defend on the perimeter. When you're labeled as a shooter, a lot of teams close out hard on you, so I was able to put the ball on the floor too.”
A&M picked it up in the second half, outscoring Tennessee 19-17 in the third quarter and 29-21 in the fourth. Paced by Pitts and sophomore guard Jordan Nixon who both scored 15 points a piece in the second half, the Aggies put the back-and-forth game away at the free throw line.
“The most important thing about shooting a free throw is wanting to be there,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “I've got a lot of kids that want to be there … I got to make our kids work on that every day and if I had a free throw contest between Wells, Pitts and maybe throw in [junior guard Alexis Morris], I don't know who would win. I mean, all four of them are big time free-throw shooters and that's how I design my in-game situations to make sure the bowl is going to be in their hands.”
Closing the game out with 17 made free throws in the fourth quarter, the Aggies achieved their fourth double digit win over a ranked opponent this season.
Next, A&M will host Missouri on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. in Reed Arena. The game will be available on SEC Network.