Jan. 3, 2009
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas - No. 3 Texas A&M extended its school-record start to an undefeated 12-0 and avenged two previous losses to George Washington with a 78-59 win over the Colonials Saturday night before a season-high crowd of 6,892 at Reed Arena.
Senior All-America candidate Takia Starks (Houston, Texas) registered a game-high 22 points knocking four three-pointers from downtown coupled with a career-high six steals as the Aggies matched their longest win streak in school history. They have won 28 in their last 30-game stretch dating back to a 58-51 win at Kansas in Big 12 Conference play on Jan. 26, 2008.
Senior All-America candidate Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.) turned in her second double-double performance of the season and 14th of her career with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead A&M to its first-ever victory over GW in three tries. The Colonials (7-6) halted A&M's run in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and beat the Aggies in overtime last December on the road.
Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Tanisha Smith (Kansas City, Kan.) rounded out the Aggies' double-figure scorers with a career-high 16 after opening up the game with back-to-back threes which contributed to 12 first-half points for the junior transfer from Arkansas-Fort Smith.
Starks and Smith combined to score 25 points in the decisive first half, when the Aggies opened a 40-23 lead by the break. Erica Rivera led the Colonials with 13 points in their second consecutive loss to a top 25 opponent.
Up next, A&M will close out non-conference competition at 2008 NCAA Tournament participant Florida State (11-4) on Monday, Jan. 5 at the Donald T. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, Fla. Tipoff between the Aggies and Seminoles is slated for 6 p.m. (CT).
For the second time this year and second consecutive game, Texas A&M used the starting lineup of Sydney Colson, Takia Starks, Tanisha Smith, Danielle Gant and La Toya Micheaux (2-0).
With the win, A&M picked up its first win against George Washington in three tries (1-2) and Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair his first in five tries (1-4). The Aggies also claimed their 50th win at home compiling an unprecedented 50-4 (.926) record over the last four years at Reed Arena since the 2005-06 season.
Takia Starks turned in her 21st 20-point game of her career with a game-high 22 points against George Washington to extend her double-digit scoring streak to five games. She has now registered 20-point games in back-to-back-to-back games for the third time of her career.
With her season-high four three-pointers versus the Colonials, Starks surpassed former A&M players A'Quonesia Franklin (157) and Amy Yates (154) in career three-point field goals made (158) to rank second all-time behind former All-American Lisa Branch (165).
Danielle Gant recorded her 14th career double-double and second of the season with 17 points and a game-high tying 10 rebounds.
Tanisha Smith made her fourth career start and scored a career-best 16 points with 10 coming in the first half of play.
Sydney Colson left the game in the second half with a partially dislocated right ring finger.
The A&M defense held George Washington to its second-fewest first-half points of the season with 23. The Colonials scored just 22 points at No. 14 Rutgers on Dec. 29 and at Kentucky on Nov. 23.
The Aggies have held all 12 of their opponents this season to under 60 points and rank among the nation's and league's best in scoring defense. It was the fourth lowest point production for GW (59 points) this season.
A&M shot a season-best 50 percent (7-of-14) from three-point range including four from Starks, two from Smith and one from freshman reserve point guard Sydney Carter (DeSoto, Texas).
GW tied an opponent season-high with 29 turnovers in the game next to Mercer on Nov. 14 and Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 2.
A&M had a season-high crowd of 6,892 in attendance at Reed Arena which marked the sixth-largest crowd at Reed Arena in school history. It was the largest crowd for a non-conference regular-season home game ahead of doubleheaders with the A&M men's basketball team versus Pepperdine (6,443) on Nov. 10, 2006 and Western Illinois (6,389) on Jan. 2, 2007. The Aggies have now drawn 5,000+ fans in back-to-back-back games with its previous season-high of 5,543 versus No. 25 New Mexico on Dec. 30.
Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
On the game ...
"One of our goals was to get the game into transition early and to utilize our bench. I thought our defense was outstanding at times in the first half. In the second half, they (GW) got their ears pinned back at halftime and did a much better job. We made lot of defensive mistakes in the second half. I was pleased with Sydney Carter. That's two ballgames and probably six of the last seven that she has played extremely well. I thought (Damitria) Buchanan and (La Toya) Micheaux were good tonight. They handled their bigs about as well as you could, particularly on the boards. It was a good ballgame. I think the crowd got into it. This was a good win for us. (GW Coach) Mike's (Bozeman) doing good job. He is playing a top-10 schedule. He will be either first or second in the A-10. They have a good ball club, I think our pressure just wore them down."
On his team's defensive effort ...
"You wear people out. Twenty-nine turnovers sometimes comes from unforced errors, because they are so tired on offense. We probably missed 12 shots in the paint. We have to do a better job. We were going against big players tonight. We have to learn how to finish against that type of size, because we are going to see it in the Big 12."
Texas A&M Senior Guard/Forward Danielle Gant
On the second half ...
"(Coach Blair) wanted to get the ball in to me early again like the last game. My teammates were able to do that. I just ran the floor in transition and got the ball."
On A&M's defensive effort ...
"We are a defensive team. Coach (Blair) wanted us to deny the wings and pressure the ball. They have a good inside game. We denied the wings and got a lot of backside help for their post players. That's a good team, and we forced 29 turnovers, so we're pretty proud of ourselves right now."
Texas A&M Senior Guard Takia Starks
On her play over the last three games ...
"I am just taking off from my defense. I am focused on getting steals and rebounding more and letting my offense come off that."
On avenging two previous losses to George Washington ...
"It was definitely redemption tonight, especially on our home court and with the streak we have going. They play great zone and we kind of took them out of that, and we made them turn the ball over and that contributed to the win tonight."
On forcing GW to 29 turnovers ...
"We definitely got into the passing lanes. Our help-side defense had a couple of faults, but that tonight, was a big feat for us. The ball pressure forced them to throw the ball away, they handed the ball to us several times."
Texas A&M Junior Guard/Forward Tanisha Smith
On her start to the game ...
"I've started in practice the last couple of days. Coach (Blair) stressed their defense and finding the open areas. I was just in the right places at the right times. I played way more minutes than I usually do in the first half, so I think my legs got a little tired."
George Washington Head Coach Mike Bozeman
On the game ...
"(We played) the No. 3-ranked team in the country at their place. Great atmosphere. Great crowd participation. Great coach in Gary Blair. Great star in (Takia) Starks. Great complement player, a very good player in her own right in (Danielle) Gant. Tanisha Smith isn't a scrub either. They have a great team. Coach Blair is doing a great job. He has built a very good program here. My thoughts about why we lost the game are the reasons I just gave you. (That is a) Good program. I take nothing away from A&M. I don't come into games prepared to make excuses why you lose. I will point to 29 turnovers. I won't say we committed 29 turnovers...I will say they caused us to commit 29 turnovers. Did I feel like my team competed at its potential? No. But you have to give A&M credit for that. I love this atmosphere. I would love to play here again tomorrow. That is just the nature of this business. I am a competitor and I want to compete in an atmosphere like this. My hat goes off to the A&M coaching staff and players, they did a great job tonight."
On GW's advantages coming into the game ...
"I thought we would be able to exploit things inside, with Jessica Adair being a potential All-American. I did not expect (Takia) Starks to hit such tough shots. I knew she could shoot, but she was hitting contested shots. Overall, I thought we matched up well with them. I think the major difference in the game was that their execution was on such a higher level than ours was. They played like the No. 3-ranked team in the country."
On A&M's defense compared to other teams they have played this season ...
"We have played a monster schedule so far. How does it compare to Auburn or Tennessee or Rutgers? It is right in there with those groups. We played with those guys, the Rutgers' and the Tennessee's. I didn't think the moment would get us in the way I thought it did. They (A&M) compare very favorably."