Paced by a career-high 19-point performance from sophomore guard Jordan Nixon, the No. 8 Texas A&M women’s basketball team defeated No. 10 Kentucky 77-60.
With junior guards Alexis Morris and Zaay Green out for the game, the Aggies’ bench was not as deep as it has been in games previous. However, a balanced offensive performance from A&M’s starters proved too much for Kentucky.
“Jordan, definitely she can score at will. She does that at practice and she's in the gym every day and that's a testament to who she is and who's running our team,” senior guard Aaliyah Wilson said. “It wasn't a surprise. Obviously, we were excited and happy that she started like that — we needed that for sure and I think she gave us the spark that we needed.”
Heading into the game, all eyes were on Kentucky’s preseason All-American Rhyne Howard. Howard, who had scored four three-pointers in each of her last three games, was held to just one three-point bucket thanks in part to Wilson’s defense. Wilson was also a threat on offense, finishing the game as the Aggies’ second-leading scorer with 18 points.
Nixon started the game strong, going 5-of-5 from the floor in the first quarter, but the Aggies were outscored 21-18 in the first frame. However, A&M bounced back in the second quarter to tie the game at 31 heading into halftime after seven lead changes.
“At halftime, the coaches talked about how Kentucky played harder than us in the first half. I think we just really did a [good] job of turning that page and hitting them first in the second half,” Wilson said. “The fourth quarter we attacked them and were able to get up and we just kept pushing and would get a run and I think we did a [good] job of just finishing strong.”
Senior forward N’dea Jones was instrumental in the Aggies’ win, recording 12 points and 12 rebounds which ties her for the most double-double performances in the nation this season with seven.
The third quarter alone saw another seven lead changes, but a 24-point fourth quarter for the Aggies iced out Kentucky, and a dominant defensive performance held the Wildcats to just 13.
“Kentucky is probably the best team we’ve played this year so the score does not indicate how good Kentucky is,” A&M coach Gary Blair said. “Look at the difference in the paint points and we were able to keep Ciera [Johnson] out of foul trouble and she neutralized their two kids inside.”
The Wildcats led the Aggies for most of the first half before the Aggies were able to pull away with a dominant second half performance, with Kentucky leading for 17 total minutes of the game and A&M leading for just over 18 minutes. Johnson scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half, adding to the Aggies’ lead on four separate occasions.
With Thursday’s win, A&M moves to 11-0 on the season. The Aggies have another ranked matchup looming as they take on the No. 13 Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark., at 3 p.m. on Jan. 10
“We're very confident right now but we know Arkansas [and] every time we play them it's a dogfight, so it's not going to be easy,” Johnson said.