No. 11 Aggies Down Chinese National Team in Exhibition Play, 76-70

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COLLEGE STATION - Junior Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.) recorded a game-high 20 points to lead the 11th-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team to a 76-70 victory over the Chinese National Team in exhibition play Saturday night at Reed Arena.

Gant was one of three A&M players to score in double figures along with an 18-point outburst from freshman Tyra White (Kansas City, Mo.) in her unofficial collegiate debut. White scored 12 of her first-half points on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor including two three-pointers. Junior center La Toya Micheaux (Missouri City, Texas) added 14 points in the paint for A&M.

After trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half, the Aggies turned things around on the both the offensive and defensive ends. Senior point guard A’Quonesia Franklin (Tyler, Texas) found an open Micheaux under the basket for an easy layin to tie the game up at the 17:28 minute mark, 39-39. Franklin dished out seven of the team’s 14 assists versus China.

Both teams would continue to trade baskets with seven ties in the second half of play. The Aggies extended their lead into double digits as Franklin connected on two key free throws with 4:18 remaining in regulation to put A&M up by 10. They never trailed thereafter. For the game, the Aggies shot 46.9 percent from the floor against the 10th-ranked team in the world.

The Chinese National Team had four players in double figures including a team-high 14 from Miao Lijie who plays for the WNBA champion Sacramento Monarchs. It was China’s second consecutive game to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor (56.9) and its first loss of its six-game college tour after opening up with a 67-61 win at New Mexico on Thursday.

A&M will officially open the 2007-08 season at former Southwest Conference rival SMU on Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. in Dallas.

Postgame Notes…A&M used the starting lineup of A’Quonesia Franklin, Takia Starks, Danielle Gant, Ashlaa Horton and La Toya Micheaux…Unofficially, it was the Aggies’ 19th consecutive win at Reed Arena after going a perfect 16-0 at their home venue last season and winning their last two home games during the 2005-06 campaign against Texas and Iowa State…The Aggie defense forced China to commit 20 turnovers which was close to the team’s average versus opponents a year ago (21.7)…A&M will face two of the top 10 teams in the world in a nine-day span including the Chinese National Team and the U.S. Women’s National Team on Nov. 11…Both squads will represent their respective countries at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing…Despite a height disadvantage with eight players on the Chinese roster over six-feet tall, A&M outrebounded the opposition, 31-27…A&M set a school attendance record for a women’s exhibition game with a crowd of 3,598 fans at Reed Arena.

POSTGAME QUOTES

TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH GARY BLAIR

On second-half changes against China …

“We didn’t stop what we were doing. We found a way and we did a better job in the second half. We made them hurry their shot. They shot close to 70 percent in the first half. I was really pleased with our post play. China played us with straight up defense. (La Toya) Micheaux did a great job of finishing. Ashlaa Horton and Katrina Limbaha came in at the four spot and did a good job. We stayed in the ballgame in the first half because of Tyra White and Danielle Gant. We have to be able to hit the outside shots and our post players will have to score in the crowd.”

On China and preparation for the regular season …

“We have raised the bar with the teams we are playing in the non-conference and exhibition season. I wanted my kids to feel that confidence leading into the SMU game. That felt like a Big 12 game out there and particularly, how hard we had to play on the defensive end. I felt we did pretty well shooting 46 percent against that size. It’s a good start for us. We’ll face a team very similar to ourselves in SMU with a lot of speed and a lot of athleticism.”

On the school-record crowd for an exhibition game …

“Tonight was international night and it was a really great promotion by our marketing staff. Hopefully, we can cultivate some of the new faces in the stands to come out to our games this season. We have such a huge international student base on campus and it’s an area we really haven’t hit until now. We really appreciate their support tonight.”

JUNIOR GUARD/FORWARD DANIELLE GANT

On the game and her scoring outburst against China …

“Last year, I didn’t play much of an outside game and my teammates and coaches told me to shoot the ball. I really felt comfortable out there tonight. For our first game, we played really well, but we have a long way to go.”

JUNIOR CENTER LA TOYA MICHEAUX

On the game …

“It was an honor to play the Chinese National Team. They are a great ball club and they are very strong. You have to give respect to my teammates. Overall, we played great team defense. I was pretty surprised at my own performance. The ball went inside and I just finished. Coach (Blair) told us to stay out of foul trouble because we needed all of our post players in the game. This is just a warm-up and we will build off of it. To come out and play a national team, we came out hard in the second half and played with a lot of heart.”

FRESHMAN GUARD TYRA WHITE

On her first game as an Aggie …

“It was a good experience and very different from the high school game. It’s a big change with the speed and pace of the game. I was nervous, but going up against T-Kay (Starks) and D.G. (Danielle Gant) in practice helped me out.”