The No. 5 Texas A&M women’s basketball team took an over 500-mile trip to Oxford, Miss., to take on the Ole Miss Rebels in its first road game since Jan. 28.
The Aggies (11-1) currently stand atop the SEC rankings tied with South Carolina (13-1) at one conference loss apiece. Although in the lower quarter of the conference standings, Ole Miss has shown growth from its 0-16 performance last season and has an impressive win over No. 17 Kentucky on this year’s resume.
Led by Maryland transfer Shakira Austin, ESPN’s No. 1 rated transfer, and the No. 1 recruiting class in the SEC, Ole Miss looked to sneak a win past A&M, but, despite a close first half, fell 66-55 to the Aggies.
The first half of the game started slow for both teams, with neither finding much rhythm. A&M’s 14 free throw attempts highlighted the half, but foul trouble for the Aggies’ bigs, senior forward N’dea Jones and senior center Ciera Johnson, led to trouble scoring down low.
“Sometimes when you’re struggling at half and shooting 29 percent but you’re still up by three you have to look at what we were doing defensively,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “We were having to play small ball because we had both [N’dea Jones] and [Ciera Johnson] in foul trouble but that is how much I trust this bench, they did a great job.”
Up 26-23 at the start of the third quarter, senior guard Aaliyah Wilson began A&M’s scoring with a jumper to start the quarter. Timely three-pointers from senior guards Kayla Wells and Destiny Pitts continued scoring momentum and restored shooting rhythm for the Aggies who would improve to just under 50 percent from the floor in the second half.
Wells led the Aggies in the scoring column with 18 points on the game and in rebounding with a career-high nine boards. She extended her double-digit scoring streak to six consecutive games and added a season-high two blocks to the stat sheet as well.
Two transfer guards, junior Zaay Green and sophomore Jordan Nixon, charged into the fourth quarter with six and nine points, respectively. Green scored six straight points to open the quarter and Nixon followed with seven unanswered to extend the Aggies lead to 14 at just over halfway through the fourth.
“[Zaay Green] hadn’t forgotten how to play ball, she just needed more opportunity,” Blair said. “She knew exactly what she needed to do when she came into the ball game. That's how much confidence we have and hopefully this is going to give her a boost for the last two [conference] games we have left. Zaay Green’s six points was huge in this ball game.”
A&M now stands as the only one-loss team ranked in the top 10 with their 20th win of the season. The Aggies will remain on the road this week as they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on unranked Alabama on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. for their final road game of the regular season.