DALLAS -- Two former Southwest Conference foes renew their rivalry on the hardwood as the 11th-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team (0-0) officially opens the 2007-08 season at SMU (0-0) on Friday, Nov. 9 at Moody Coliseum in Dallas. Tipoff between the Aggies and Mustangs is scheduled for 7 p.m. Both teams were once old SWC fixtures in the mid-90’s and last played each other eight years ago during the 1999-00 campaign. Head coach Gary Blair enters his fifth season in Aggieland with continued high expectations for A&M. Last year, the preseason Big 12 Conference favorite Aggies turned in the second-most wins in school history with a 25-7 overall record, their first conference regular season title and their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. A&M’s preseason national ranking is an early indication of what is in store for opponents as the Aggies return a lineup loaded with all-conference veterans complimented by one of the top recruiting classes in the nation.
THE AGGIELAND 500
Texas A&M (499-480) is one win shy of recording its 500th overall victory in the 34-year history of the program. A&M’s first season of women’s basketball began in 1974-75 and a win would give the Aggies the distinction of becoming one of 120 Division I women’s basketball programs to accomplish that feat (about 36 percent of the current 335-team membership). Historically, all but one of A&M’s milestone wins has come against a school outside of the Lone Star State. Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair was six games short of leading Stephen F. Austin to the program’s 500th victory before he left Nacogdoches after the conclusion of the 1992-93 season to take over the reins at Arkansas. Also of special note, A&M will play its 1,000th all-time game in program history against Missouri in league play on Jan. 29 at Reed Arena.
MILESTONE AGGIE VICTORIES
Win No. 100 vs. Texas Woman’s University (Feb. 22, 1979)
Win No. 200 UT-Pan American (Nov. 30, 1987)
Win No. 300 Rice (Jan. 15, 1994)
Win No. 400 Centenary (Dec. 29, 2000)
Win No. 500 ??
SCOUTING THE MUSTANGS
Similar to A&M, SMU returns one of the most experienced and most athletic ballclubs in the country. The Mustangs were picked to finish tied for fourth in the preseason Conference USA Poll. They return 99 percent of their scoring and 99 percent of their rebounding production with the loss of only two letterwinners from last year’s 18-12 squad. SMU’s 12-player roster is made up of native Texans with the exception of preseason 6-foot-3 All-American candidate Janielle Dodds who is a two-time all-conference first team pick from Fairfax, Virginia. Six nationally-ranked teams have fallen to SMU during the past six years under 17th-year head coach Rhonda Rompola’s career at her alma mater. She and Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair rank among the top five when it comes to overall years of head coaching expertise at a Division I basketball school in the state of Texas. Blair leads the distinguished group with 23 years of experience followed by North Texas head coach Tina Slinker (19), Houston head coach Joe Curl (17) and Rompola (17).
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
No. Name 2006-07 Stats
10 A’Quonesia Franklin, G, 5-3, Sr. 9.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg
3 Takia Starks, G, 5-8, Jr. 14.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg
55 Danielle Gant, G/F, 5-11, Jr. 10.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg
33 Ashlaa Horton, F, 6-1, So. 1.3 ppg, 0.9 rpg
12 La Toya Micheaux, C, 6-3, Jr. 6.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg
No. Name 2006-07 Stats
12 Katy Cobb, G, 5-6, Sr. 8.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg
41 Jillian Samuels, G, 5-4, So. 8.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg
32 Sharee Shepherd, G, 5-10, Sr. 7.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg
5 Delisha Wills, F, 5-10, So. 9.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg
25 Janielle Dodds, C/F, 6-3, Sr. 15.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg
2006-07 Category TAMU SMU
Overall Record 25-7 18-12
Conference Record 13-3 9-7
Points Per Game 65.6 68.2
Scoring Margin +12.0 +5.2
Rebounds Per Game 37.8 41.4
Rebounding Margin +2.3 -1.4
Field Goal Percentage 41.8 38.6
Field Goal% Defense 37.5 36.8
Three-Point FG% 35.4 33.7
Free Throw Percentage 27.3 29.8
Turnovers Per Game 16.7 17.5
Assists Per Game 15.3 13.7
Blocks Per Game 4.9 3.7
Steals Per Game 9.9 9.6
Texas A&M leads 23-17 in the all-time series versus SMU. The Aggies have played the Mustangs on three occasions outside of Southwest Conference play. Friday’s contest will mark the third time A&M will face SMU as a Big 12 member school next to non-conference meetings during the 1997-98 and 1999-00 seasons. The last four contests between the two schools have been decided by four points or less including a 73-69 A&M victory in Dallas on Nov. 30, 1999 which snapped a four-game losing skid in the series. The Aggies are 11-7 all-time when playing at Moody Coliseum.
LAST FOUR GAMES IN SERIES
(+3) SMU 74, Texas A&M 71 @ College Station (12/4/96)
(+3) SMU 75, Texas A&M 72 @ Dallas (12/14/97)
(+3) SMU 78, Texas A&M 75 @ College Station (11/18/98)
(+4) Texas A&M 73, SMU 69 @ Dallas (11/30/99)
DID YOU KNOW?
Ÿ The Aggies’ first-ever appearance on national television was an ESPN2 game at SMU on March 1, 1996. Since then, they have appeared on the tube on more than 40 occasions on FSN, ESPN and ESPN2.
Ÿ Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair is 7-1 all-time against SMU in 23 years as a Division I coach.
Ÿ Third-year video coordinator Charlee Simmons is a 2005 graduate of SMU and served as a student assistant for head coach Rhonda Rompola and the women’s basketball program from 2001-05.
Ÿ SMU is one of seven in-state opponents on this year’s A&M schedule which also includes dates with TCU, Texas-Arlington, Stephen F. Austin, Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor.
AGGIES IN SEASON OPENERS
The Aggies are 21-12 all-time in season openers. They will start the year off on the road for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign. It’s not unusual for an A&M team to open the season away from the friendly confines of Reed Arena. In fact, the Aggies have commenced the season either on the road or at a neutral site in four out of the last seven years including locales such as Honolulu, Miami, Kentucky and Boston. They are 8-9 all-time in away openers.
THE EARLY BIRD CATCHES THE WORM
As the old saying goes, “If you start something early you stand a better chance of success.” A&M looks to start the season off with some momentum as Friday’s contest marks the earliest start for an Aggie Basketball team in 34 seasons played. A&M previously kicked off the 1982-83 season versus Southwestern on Nov. 12, 1982 and started the 2006-07 season against Pepperdine on Nov. 10, 2006.
AGAINST CONFERENCE USA FOES
The Aggies are 81-68 all-time against opponents hailing from Conference USA. They have faced all but two C-USA schools in program history having played Houston (23-33), Marshall (1-1), Memphis (0-3), Rice (27-10), Tulane (3-4), Tulsa (1-0), UAB (1-0), Central Florida (1-0) and UTEP (1-0). Former A&M standout Donyale Canada (1993-94) currently serves as director of sports services overseeing C-USA’s 19 sports including women’s basketball.
PRE‘SEASONED’ PLAYERS HOLD COURT
Both teams boast some of the top returning players in the Big 12 Conference and Conference USA combined. Texas A&M senior point guard A’Quonesia Franklin and junior guard Takia Starks were honored as preseason All-Big 12 selections, while SMU senior post player Janielle Dodds was tabbed as an All-C-USA preseason selection. Meanwhile, Texas A&M freshman guard Tyra White was named preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Last season, Starks averaged a team-leading 14.2 points per game, while Dodds averaged a team-leading 15.9 ppg for SMU.
BACK TO MY DALLAS ROOTS
Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair (Bryan Adams HS) and sophomore Ashlaa Horton (Cedar Hill HS) and freshman Maryann Baker (Bishop Lynch HS) return home to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex this weekend. Blair was born and raised in Dallas where he was named an all-city baseball player. A member of the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame, Blair was a groundbreaking coach at South Oak Cliff High School. In seven seasons, he set a state record with five consecutive state tournament appearances, an impressive 239-18 record and three state championship titles. Horton was rated the No. 33 best power forward in the country out of Cedar Hill High School, while Baker was rated the No. 25 best shooting guard out of Bishop Lynch Catholic High School. The Aggies last played in Dallas during the 2006 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship held at Reunion Arena.
PLAYING THE BEST OF THE BEST
The Aggies will face two of the top 10 teams in the world in a nine-day span as they take on the U.S. Women’s National Team headlined by three-time Olympian Lisa Leslie in their second exhibition tilt of the season on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. at Reed Arena. The U.S. women are coming off a silver-medal finish at the FIBA World League Tournament which automatically qualified them for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. They are currently ranked No. 1 in the world and are currently an undefeated 4-0 on their 2007 College Tour with victories over defending national champion Tennessee, Maryland, Connecticut and Baylor.
GOING UP AGAINST A COACHING MONARCHY
Texas A&M will face back-to-back opponents coached by products of one of the most storied women’s basketball programs in the country in three-time national champion Old Dominion. SMU head coach Rhonda Rompola played at ODU from 1978-81 before finishing out her career at the Dallas-based school. The U.S. Women’s National Team is coached by WNBA head coach Anne Donovan who was a three-time All-American for the Lady Monarchs from 1979-1983. Both were teammates of Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman (1976-80) who also makes her home in the Lone Star State.
The Aggies defeated the Chinese National Team, 76-70, in their first exhibition matchup on Nov. 3. China is currently ranked No. 10 in the world and finished fourth behind the U.S. and Russia at the FIBA Tournament last month. Junior Danielle Gant recorded a game-high 20 points and was one of three A&M players to score in double figures. Freshman Tyra White scored 18 points in her unofficial collegiate debut and junior La Toya Micheaux added 14. The Aggie defense forced China to commit 20 turnovers in the ballgame which was close to the team’s average versus opponents a year ago (21.7). Despite a height disadvantage with eight players on the Chinese roster over six-feet tall, A&M outrebounded their opponents by a margin of 31-27. A&M also set a school attendance record for a women’s exhibition game with a crowd of 3,598 fans at Reed Arena.
For the second consecutive year, Texas A&M features one of the nation’s and Big 12’s most-experienced squads returning their top six scorers from a year ago including junior Takia Starks (14.2), junior Danielle Gant (10.8), senior Morenike Atunrase (10.0), senior A’Quonesia Franklin (9.9), senior Patrice Reado (7.1) and junior La Toya Micheaux (6.2). In all, the Aggies return 93 percent of their scoring and 97 percent of their rebounding output from 2006-07. A&M is well-balanced with 57 percent of the 14-player comprised of upperclassmen and 43 percent made up of players in their first or second year with the program. Over the last two years, the Aggies relied on their young guns with 75 percent of the team’s scoring coming from underclassmen.
AGGIES ON THE RADIO
All Texas A&M women’s basketball games can be heard via a radio broadcast on the Texas A&M Sports Network. Play-by-play announcer Tom Turbiville will call the action live from Moody Coliseum alongside color analyst Steve Miller via a live audio feed on www.AggieAthletics.com and a delayed broadcast on KZNE 1150 AM.