Ranked No. 6 in the national preseason rankings, Texas A&M women’s basketball will look to open the regular season strong against a familiar opponent, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Tuesday.
The two teams have faced off against each other the last five seasons, with A&M winning the last four matchups.
With a level of familiarity between the teams, A&M coach Gary Blair said he knows what to expect against the Trojans.
“We both know each other so well, it's all about execution,” Blair said. “I know his kids are going to play hard. They're going to be well coached and they're going to make the NCAA playoffs, those are all givens.”
A&M enters this game after winning an exhibition matchup over Oklahoma City University 67-37 on Friday. Juniors Ciera Johnson and Chennedy Carter led the Aggies on the scoreboard with 24 and 22 points respectively, while Johnson added 10 rebounds.
One player the Aggies will look to see more from against Arkansas-Little Rock is junior Aaliyah Wilson. After missing all but nine games of 2018-19 with an ACL injury, Wilson had a rough performance against the Stars, shooting 1-of-8 from the field.
Wilson said even though she is not 100 percent healthy, she’s still excited to be able to play with her teammates again.
“It feels good, really exciting to be back out there with my teammates,” Wilson said. “ I know we had a long year last year, so just being able to be out there experience that with them on the court and on the bench again this year, it feels really good. I’m excited.”
Against the Trojans, Wilson said the Aggies need to focus their play on both ends of the court.
“They're a very well coached team, they execute really well,” Wilson said. “On offense, they always have another option. So just moving and really keying in on staying focused on the defensive end. Knowing how well coached they are, we can't beat ourselves and they're not gonna let us do that either. We’ve just been focusing on dominating on both ends, rebounding, getting out, and executing plays.”
In addition to the Trojans, the Aggies face a week filled with tough opponents coming on the horizon. On Thursday, A&M faces off in an exhibition against the U.S. women’s national team, before hosting the Duke Blue Devils, who return all five starters from last year’s team.
Despite the amount of tough competition later in the week, Blair said the team’s focus is solely on Arkansas-Little Rock.
“You throw the kitchen sink at UALR, you do everything because that's how much respect I have for this program,” Blair said. “If you remember when we went to the NCAA tournament in 2015, UALR beat us and led just about the whole ball game because they executed and we might've been reading our press clippings. I will make sure that doesn't happen. There will not be one word mentioned about the Olympic team or Duke in my practices until this game is over on Tuesday, so we will have their attention.”
Tipoff against Arkansas-Little Rock begins at 7 p.m. at Reed Arena on Tuesday. The game will also be streamed on SEC Network+.