Jan. 21, 2009
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas - No. 7 Texas A&M went down-to-the-wire with No. 4 Baylor in a hotly-contested Big 12 Conference women's basketball showdown between two of the nation's and league's top teams which resulted in a 64-61 victory for the visiting Lady Bears Wednesday night before a crowd of 5,234 at Reed Arena.
Senior All-America candidate Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.) drained her second free throw with 34 seconds remaining in regulation to tie things up at 61-61. With time ticking away on the game clock, Baylor's Danielle Wilson converted a crucial three-point play after receiving an inbounds pass in the lane for the layup and being fouled by Gant with 4.8 seconds left to secure the Lady Bears' 10-straight win of the season.
Senior All-America candidate Takia Starks (Houston, Texas) dribbled up the court and took the last shot past the top of the key to possibly send the game into overtime, but BU would escape with its first win in College Station in close to three years in the Battle of the Brazos series. Starks ended the night with 18 points and four rebounds in 36 minutes of action versus the Lady Bears.
There were 19 lead changes in the ballgame and 17 ties. Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Tanisha Smith (Kansas City, Mo.) came up big for the Aggies (14-3, 2-2) all night with a career-and game-high 19 points and six rebounds including six of the team's first eight points of the game where A&M capitalized on Baylor's early mistakes on the court. The Aggie defense forced the Lady Bears into a season-high tying 20 turnovers for the game.
Both teams shot close to 50 percent in a fast-paced first half, but BU took a 37-34 advantage into halftime on a three-pointer by Jessica Morrow who led the Lady Bears (16-1, 4-0) with 15 points. Wilson, who had the game-winning play, recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Jhasmin Player added 12.
Up next, A&M will take on its third consecutive top 25 opponent in seven days traveling to No. 24/25 Oklahoma State (12-4, 1-2) for a Saturday, Jan. 24 tilt at 6 p.m. (CT) in Stillwater, Okla.
For the fourth time this year, Texas A&M used the starting lineup of Sydney Colson, Takia Starks, Tanisha Smith, Danielle Gant and La Toya Micheaux (3-1). Tanisha Smith made her sixth career start and her second in Big 12 Conference play next to starting at Missouri in the team's league opener on Jan. 10.
Smith scored a career-and season-best 12 first-half points against the Lady Bears. She previously had a season-high 10 first-half points versus George Washington on Jan. 3. Smith ended the night with a career-high 19 points and a career-high six rebounds.
Five out of the last six games in the all-time series with Baylor have been decided by eight points or less including tonight's three-point loss which ended A&M's 13-game home court winning streak at Reed Arena. BU picked up its first win in College Station in nearly three years since an 84-59 road victory on Feb. 15, 2006.
Takia Starks registered her fourth-straight double-digit game with 18 points versus the Lady Bears.
A&M held Rachel Allison, Baylor's second-leading scorer at 13.0 ppg, to zero points in the ballgame. She got into foul trouble early with two in the first half of play. Allison played only seven minutes versus the Aggies and was held to zero points for the sixth time of her career including three of those times against A&M.
The Aggie defense also forced a season-high tying 20 turnovers by Baylor. It was the second time of the season that the Lady Bears had 20 miscues next to their home game against Lamar on Dec. 8.
Close to 1,000 A&M students accounted for part of the 5,234 fans in attendance at Reed Arena.
With the loss, the Aggies are now 2-4 all-time against opponents ranked No. 4 or higher in the national polls.
Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
On the last play of the game ...
"It was just a switch that you are supposed to switch off. We have kids who know what to do, but it just didn't happen. We made some mistakes on it. That play didn't beat us, but it was a part of it. There were a lot of other things in between. It was a great basketball game. It was by far the best game we have played in conference so far. We were not good on our shot selection and our play over the last five minutes of the ballgame, particularly when we had time on the clock and we forced a couple (of shots). Both teams were trying to make plays and both coaches were trying to coach their players up. Our two teams are mirror images of each other. If we played 10 times this season, both of us would win five. This is what top 10 basketball is all about with No. 4 versus No. 7. I look forward to going to Waco later this season and having the same type of game there. It's getting to be a common theme in the series with end-of-the-game situations. We need to coach better and make sure we have the lead at the end. I was hoping to go to the overtime and that they would try to take a jumper."
On how much the loss stings after his team played so well against Baylor ...
"I thought this game was going to go down-to-the-wire, no matter what happened. Neither one of us is better than the other. This is our home court. We have to protect it and we didn't do it. I would like to have it back, but I thought we executed our offense really well tonight."
Texas A&M Senior Guard Takia Starks
On the last play of the game ...
"We knew that they were either going to back door or lob it like they did on the previous play. Our game plan was to switch everything, but there was a mishap and she (Danielle Wilson) got the back door for the easy score."
On the crowd and intensity of the game at Reed Arena ...
"First off, I would like to thank the students for coming out. That alone gave me energy tonight. This place hasn't been this loud since we had 11,000 against Baylor a couple of years ago. It was a high-energy game for the whole game. We executed and they would execute. It was nice to see us play well on defense at times, since that was our mishap in our previous games. We had great spurts in the game and not so great spurts. We are young and have a lot of people playing and we are just getting comfortable. I was proud of our team tonight, because we have been looking for that third option aside from Danielle (Gant) and I."
Baylor Head Coach Kim Mulkey
On the game ...
"We have to work for everything in the Big 12. Anytime you go on the road and steal one, it's a good feeling. We understood how good they (Texas A&M) were. We were an ugly basketball team in that first part of the game, but you know coming in here what to expect. You know the kind of pressure and know how physical it will be. We are fighting for our life. We had some bone-headed back court violations, but we corrected it. We had six turnovers in the second half which was key. When you only win by three, you understand the value of those two offensive boards. It's a game that was very intense with both teams playing good defense. Both teams took each others strengths away for most of the game. We just made enough plays to win it."
On Danielle Gant ...
"That kid is a post player at 5-foot-11. She is strong and a beast on the boards. When you scout A&M, you better know where she is at all times."
On the importance of this win ...
"This is not a must-win when you are just four games into this thing (Big 12 race). It's too early. It was a good win for us. If we would have lost, we would have gotten on our bus and went home. These two teams are too good. We are all fighting to finish in the upper half of this division (Big 12 South) to get good seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Look at our upcoming schedules. You can't even take a deep breath. You can't smile and wake up tomorrow, because you are in the film room looking at the next opponent. You are just trying to muster up enough wins to get a good seed and finish in the upper echelon of the Big 12. Gary (Blair) is too good of a coach and either team could have won this game tonight."
Baylor Senior Guard/Forward Jessica Morrow
On getting a win on the road ...
"As a senior, I'm not trying to play here again (at Reed Arena). You want to end (your career) with a win. We have to win all of our home games and steal some on the road. I feel like tonight was an important win for us."
Baylor Junior Center Danielle Wilson
On her game-winning three-point play ...
"That was a big shot for me, especially being away on someone else's court. That's a big shot which made us take the lead and eventually win the game. It was the biggest shot of my collegiate career."