No. 7 Texas A&M women’s basketball was ready for a bounce back. And bounce back it did.
On Sunday, Jan. 17, in the Aggies’ return to Reed Arena, A&M took on No. 14 Mississippi State. After losing to unranked LSU in the previous game, the Aggies had something to prove and defeated the Bulldogs 69-41.
A&M coach Gary Blair said bouncing back was the key message on the game-prep board.
“[The bounce back] was the thought for the day that we had posted in our offices,” Blair said. “The setback happens sometimes, but the most important thing is the comeback once you return. How does your team respond? I thought we put that loss behind us the very next day. We reflected and rested a little, but our kids came right back and got to work.”
A&M got off to a dominant start, winning both tip-off and the first basket of the game. In addition, the A&M defense only let the Bulldogs post three points in the opening quarter, the fewest points Mississippi State has scored in any quarter in program history.
Blair said this was in thanks to his defensive coordinator, coach Bob Starkey.
“Coach Starkey’s game plan was a great one,” Blair said. “He always comes up with a good game plan. We did a good job executing it and playing hard to find our stance and gaps today.”
Senior center Ciera Johnson helped the Aggies in their prominent start, putting up seven points in the first half. By the end of the matchup, the 6-foot-4 Duncanville native had scored 14 points and posted 12 rebounds and one assist.
Johnson said she made an effort to increase the number of her rebounds.
“I feel these past few games I have been too complacent, especially on the offensive side,” Johnson said. “My first two years here I was active offensively on the boards, but I have gotten away from that. So, today I was looking to be more active and it paid off.”
In the second quarter the Bulldogs were able to put more points on the board, lessening the Aggies’ lead to 26-19 going into halftime.
The third quarter was where A&M focused on extending its lead. Going into the final quarter of the game, the Aggies had a 50-31 lead.
In the ending quarter of the matchup the maroon and white put up 19 points. A prominent player for A&M in the fourth was junior center Ella Tofaeono, who put up the final points for the Aggies with a layup.
The unselfish nature of the Aggies was also on full display during the afternoon game, which was demonstrated by the 18 assists on A&M’s side.
Johnson said being unselfish is key.
“We know that any given night, anyone can go off,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to set up plays for the person with the hot hand. We will try to find the best way to get the ball to you. Of course, we all take bad shots at times. Sometimes we need to pass the ball, it’s a give and take. But this team doesn’t care about who is getting the most points, going to media or who the best player on the team is at any given moment. You have to defend everyone on the opposing team as a group, which I think we did a good job of tonight.”
Next up for the maroon and white is a road game against Missouri. The matchup will be played in Mizzou Arena on Sunday, Jan. 24, and tip-off is set for 4 p.m.