After an 11-0 start to the season for No. 8 Texas A&M women’s basketball, the Aggies went on the road to Fayetteville, Ark., on Sunday where they survived the No. 13 Razorbacks to improve to 12-0.
Leading A&M’s efforts against the Hogs was senior guard Aaliyah Wilson who began her collegiate career at Arkansas. Wilson recorded a new career-high in scoring against her old team with 27 points on 3-of-6 shooting from deep and 52.6 percent from the field.
Assisting Wilson’s high-scoring effort was senior forward N’dea Jones, who posted a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double on the day to make her A&M women’s basketball all-time leader in double-doubles with 34 in her career.
“That was a tremendous game,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “It could have went either way at the end. We found Ciera [Johnson] was hurting a little, and we weren’t as effective as we thought we’d be inside... so we had to go into other options. And the other options, we had some guards make some big-time plays... We kept running Wilson to death, and [Arkansas guard Makayla] Daniels was doing a good job on her.”
The matchup was a tightly contested game of runs throughout, with A&M taking a six-point lead into the second quarter that tightened into a two-point lead at half. A&M’s largest lead of the night came near the end of the first quarter, as sophomore guard Jordan Nixon made a pair of free throws to go up 20-12.
Nixon had nine points and five assists on the night, but her scoring would prove to be huge for the Aggies. A clutch and-one drive to the paint with 30 seconds remaining, followed up by a smooth layup with less than one second on the clock would give the Aggies a one-point lead.
“This is a huge win,” Nixon said. “We always talk about it, having to bring our best every night in the SEC. It wasn't our best night, and those will happen, but we showed great mental toughness tonight. We were down with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and Arkansas was humming. We were able to put together some stops and some buckets and that was just a big shot in a big moment and I'm glad I was able to make a play for my team.”
Wilson’s scoring was contested by Arkansas senior guard Chelsea Dungee, who posted 21 points on 5-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Jones helped the Aggies slow Dungee down by getting her into foul trouble with drawn charges and making Dungee go to the bench early in the first half.
“We got three fouls on Dungee,” Blair said. “That wasn't in the game plan, but we isolated her early and we picked up the charge calls, but then they picked up a couple pretty good charge calls on us.”
When Dungee came back into the game, she continued to sink shots from deep. With 0.4 seconds left after Nixon’s basket, Arkansas attempted to inbound the ball from half court and was stopped on the lob.
Due to clock issues, the play was re-done. This time, the ball was inbounded in the corner to Dungee, where Wilson played smothering defense that did not allow Dungee to get a shot up in time.
“Thank heavens they only had 0.4 [seconds],” Blair said. “Dungee would have found a way to get a good shot but Wilson was right on her. Those are two All-Americans, not just one. Wilson is a very, very good, underrated player in this league, and particularly defensive wise.”
A&M’s rebounding and solid shooting were large contributors to the win. A&M won the battle on the glass 41-28 while also making 48.3 percent of shots from the field compared to Arkansas’ 41 percent.
Now having won two top-15 matchups in a row, the Aggies will prepare to continue conference play against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., on Thursday.
“The winning streak doesn't matter,” Blair said. “We have played the schedule all year… This is just the SEC… We’re not trying to go undefeated this year. I’m trying to win the next ball game every time.”