SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Texas A&M women’s basketball finished its season with a 25-3 record after losing 74-59 to Arizona in the Sweet 16. Here are five takeaways from the Aggies’ season-ending loss:
Heading into Saturday’s game A&M knew slowing down Arizona’s senior guard Aari McDonald would be key to its success. Unfortunately for the Aggies, the hot-handed McDonald scored in double figures for her 90th straight game with a game- and season-high 31 points. McDonald’s offensive prowess includes six three-pointers with a 50 percent shooting percentage from beyond the arc. Although A&M held McDonald to only three points in the third, the Aggies inability to control her early in the game proved fatal.
Snapping her eight-game double-digit scoring streak, sophomore guard Jordan Nixon scored only three points in the Aggies’ Sweet 16 loss. Coming off of a buzzer beater and career-high 35-point game to lift A&M past Iowa State in the Round of 32, Arizona knew it would need to control Nixon to pull off the upset. Arizona coach Adia Barnes had her Naismith Defensive Player of the Year finalist McDonald guard Nixon throughout the game, and the strategy proved successful. Nixon closed out her first season with A&M going 1-of-6 from the floor with one made three-pointer.
Led by senior guard Aaliyah Wilson’s 17-point, 10-rebound performance, A&M’s senior starters scored all but nine of the Aggies’ 59 points. Following Wilson is senior guard Kayla Wells with 14 points, senior forward N’dea Jones with 10 points, six rebounds and senior center Ciera Johnson with nine points and 10 rebounds. Although all of A&M’s seniors could play another season of play due to the NCAA’s COVID-19 eligibility relief, it is unclear at this time whether any of them will return.
Too many turnovers
The Wildcats’ stellar defense turned A&M’s 19 turnovers into 28 points and took care of the ball throughout the game while only giving up eight turnovers. On top of forcing A&M to turnover the ball, the Wildcats had 13 steals to A&M’s two and scored easily in transition. Arizona senior forward Sam Thomas paced the Wildcats’ defense with five steals and two blocks. In its Round of 32 game, A&M escaped Iowa State’s upset thanks in part to forcing 24 turnovers while committing just seven. The Aggies were on the other side of the turnover battle against Arizona, however, and were unable to escape the upset.
Third quarter trouble
Down just three points at halftime A&M looked to regain its footing in the third but instead stumbled. Although the Aggies would come out of halftime strong with a few easy buckets down low for Johnson and Jones, five made three-pointers from Arizona and lights-out defense proved too much. Four fouls and seven turnovers in the quarter allowed Arizona to outscore A&M 24-14 and maintain its lead until the game’s completion.