After suffering their first loss to then-No. 12 Florida State on Sunday, the Aggies got back in the win column with a 76-46 win over Central Arkansas on Wednesday.
Senior forward Cheah Rael-Whitsitt notched two career-highs with 14 rebounds and six points. This game marked her first time with double-digit rebounds.
Rael-Whitsitt’s performance led the Aggies to a game total 47 rebounds, which pushed their season total to 301. She said an increase in confidence has improved her performance this season.
“I’m more confident and I’m trying to help my team in any way possible,” Rael-Whitsitt said. “This is one of the ways that I can so that’s what I’m going to do.”
A&M coach Gary Blair said though she doesn’t boast a full statline, Rael-Whitsitt’s energy is crucial for the team’s success.
“She makes a ton of mistakes, but she makes things happen one way or the other,” Blair said. “I have to find someone who gives me a little bit of excitement just like No. 4 [Taylor Sells] did on the opposing team.”
Despite a tip-off time of 11 a.m., the early start didn’t seem to bother No. 12 Texas A&M as the Aggies quickly took a 14-4 lead within the first five minutes of the game.
Junior guard Kayla Wells kicked off scoring for the Aggies with a three-pointer less than a minute into the game. Wells led A&M with 19 points, shooting 6-of-14 from the field.
The Aggies had three other players in double-digit points. Junior center Ciera Johnson followed up Wells’ performance with 15 points, junior guard Aaliyah Wilson had 13 and junior guard Chennedy Carter had 12.
Carter, the Aggies’ leading scorer, had a slow game with only five points in the first half — all of which came in the first five minutes of the game.
Though she struggled to put points on the board, Carter found success with a season-high nine assists.
“She went into this game to be a good teammate first,” Blair said. “I think she was doing that, giving some great passes. If we would have made a couple threes on the tail end of her passes, she probably would have had her career high in assists.”
Rael-Whitsitt said the team’s response to Carter’s off game was to have her back and perform their best.
“It’s just having the confidence to know that you are capable of what she’s capable of,” Rael-Whitsitt said. “Of course, at a different level and in your own way, you are capable of it. You see her not doing [her best], I’ve got your rebound, Ciera’s got your rebound, N’dea’s got your rebound, Anna’s got your rebound.”
The Aggies held Central Arkansas to only 12 points in the first quarter, allowing the Sugar Bears success on only 11 of 36 field goal attempts for a 33.3 completion percentage.
A&M’s defensive effort improved in the second quarter as Central Arkansas only managed nine more points before halftime.
By halftime, Wells had accumulated 11 points to help A&M to a 47-21 lead. Junior center Ciera Johnson led the Aggies at halftime with 12 points.
Despite the fast start to the game, the Aggies slipped in the third quarter, managing just eight points while allowing a game-high 16.
“I thought we had a good halftime talk and I thought we made some adjustments, but we missed the shots,” Blair said. “If you’re going to miss the shots, then play defense on the other end and try to get transition or try to get to the foul line.”
The Aggies will next host Oklahoma State in the Big 12/SEC Challenge at 7 p.m. on Saturday.