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Women's basketball travel to Oxford riding 3-game streak

Blair seeks first career road victory against the Ole Miss Rebels

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 23:02

basketball

Heran Guan

Senior center Karla Gilbert attempts a free throw during the Aggies game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Reed Arena.

The No. 16 Texas A&M women’s basketball team will face off against the Ole Miss Rebels at 6 p.m. Thursday inside the C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum in Oxford, Miss. 

The Aggies (20-6, 10-2 SEC) come off a win in Tuscaloosa against Alabama in which 12 players scored to top the Crimson Tide, 71-46. A&M looks to improve its road conference record to 6-1. 

Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair said he is wary of taking the Rebels lightly as he has yet to win a game as a head coach in Oxford. 

“All you need is a trap game to try to start thinking ahead to Kentucky on Sunday,” Blair said. “We will not allow that with our team. Last week we didn’t allow it with Alabama, and we had one of our most solid road games of the year. We will do the same thing with Ole Miss, we will go in and prepare like this is a game to win the SEC Championship, and we will leave no stone unturned.” 

Ole Miss (10-16, 1-11 SEC) limps into the matchup on a six-game losing streak, with each loss coming by at least 10 points. The Rebels are last in the SEC standings but Blair said a team’s record is irrelevant when it comes time to lace up.

“You see a lot of teams that are at the bottom of the league have pulled off big upsets,” Blair said. “We’re trying to sell Ole Miss. We’ve got to sell it — it’s up to our kids to buy into it.” 

The Rebels are led by junior forward Tia Faleru, whose 16.8 points per game ranks third in the SEC. Faleru received SEC Co-Player of the Week honors earlier this season for her performances against Southeastern Louisiana and Tennessee State.

“Faleru has been on the bench for two years, and all of the sudden this year she’s the third-leading scorer in the SEC,” Blair said. “She’s flourishing in this offense. She’s a rebounding machine and she does a great job of scoring quickly.”

Senior A&M center Karla Gilbert has emerged as a dominant force inside the paint down the stretch and has reached double-digit scoring figures in the last six games. 

“I think we’re starting to realize as a coaching staff that [Gilbert] might be our most valuable player,” Blair said. “We’re starting to realize just how good she is. She’s starting to play with a lot of confidence and she’s scoring
at will.”

A&M sits at No. 2 in the SEC standings, passing Tennessee after the Volunteers fell 75-71 to Kentucky on Sunday. Blair said he is pleased with where his team sits but ultimately not satisfied.

“Second place is not first place,” Blair said. “But we’re competing for championships.” 

Looming after A&M’s return from Oxford is a showdown with No. 15 Kentucky at 1 p.m. Sunday in Reed Arena. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

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