Slump threatens SEC, NCAA tournaments
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 01:03
Heading into the final five games of the season, Texas A&M women’s basketball was poised to make a run at the Southeastern Conference regular season title and a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With an SEC-best eight-game winning streak and a No. 10 national ranking, A&M looked to knock off conference leaders No. 7 Kentucky and No. 8 Tennessee.
Instead, A&M finished by losing four of its final five games, falling to No. 19 in the polls and the No. 4 seed in the SEC tournament.
For A&M head coach Gary Blair, the rough stretch has given his team insight into where improvements must be made.
“We looked like we were in the light-weight division and we were playing the heavy weights, and that's what it looked like to me,” Blair said after a 67-52 home loss to LSU in the season finale. “We were just not physically able to stay with them in one-on-one situations. I should have coached better, but by gosh, we had a great game plan going into this game, and we were going to be in transition, and we were going to run, and we were going to do everything, but it's hard to be in transition when you're always taking the ball out of the net. And that's what happened to us.”
Despite dropping its final three matchups, including the demoralizing 15-point LSU loss on Senior Night, Blair remains confident that his team hasn’t “hit the wall,” but instead just “played three very good teams.”
And the SEC standings support that. LSU now has a six-game win streak that includes wins over No. 7 Kentucky and No. 9 Georgia.
Late season troubles have annoyed the Aggies before. Last year, A&M closed out the year by losing three of their final four games, two to unranked teams. The Aggies bounced back, advancing to the Big 12 Conference tournament finals and the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
From the perspective of senior guard Adrienne Pratcher, the Aggies’ season is not nearly over. She looks forward to the SEC and NCAA Tournaments.
“We still have some of our season left,” Pratcher said. “We have the SEC tournament coming up. Even though it was Senior Night, the seniors are still going to be around for NCAA first and second rounds, so hopefully our fans can come out and support us there. Maybe some will even come to Duluth [Ga.] to watch us in the SEC tournament because we are definitely going to make a run.”
The Aggies have felt pressure once falling behind.. For senior forward Kristi Bellock, using practice time to fight the urge to force shots or to panic late in games will allow the team a stronger composure during tournament setting.
“We have to continue to get better in practice so we don't get behind in games and we won't have to fight as hard to come back because we are not as good of a team when we are behind,” Bellock said. “I think we were forcing some shots just because we had not scored in a while. That's something we have to get better on.”