Aggies Win Battle Of Ranked Teams

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas- Junior Takia Starks (Houston, Texas) scored 17 points and junior Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.) added 16 as the 11th-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team handed No. 14 Auburn its first loss of the season, 62-60, Saturday night before a season-best crowd of 3,663 fans at Reed Arena.

The Aggies posted their school-record 23rd consecutive home victory to improve to 9-1 on the season, while the Tigers fell to 9-1. Auburn was one of nine unbeaten schools leading into the game.

After trailing by as many as nine points in the second half, the Tigers pulled within a point with 3:17 remaining, 57-56, but senior point guard A’Quonesia Franklin (Tyler, Texas) scored A&M’s next five points on a three-pointer at the shot clock buzzer and two free throws to hold the Tigers at bay. Franklin ended the night with eight points.

Earlier in the contest, Franklin dished out the 500th assist of her career and finished the game with a team-high five assists. Starks also hit a career milestone with the 1,000th point of her three-year A&M career at the 14:44 minute mark of the first half. She became the 19th women’s basketball player in school history to reach 1,000 career points and is currently at 1,014.

A&M took an 11-point lead into halftime on the strength of a 20-4 run late in the first period. The run started after the Aggies fell behind by six points with 12:54 to go in the first half of play, 17-11.

For the fifth-straight game, A&M shot better than 40 percent from the floor (41.7) and scored 34 of its total points in the paint including a seven-point and eight-rebound effort by senior Patrice Reado (Houston, Texas). Four Auburn players scored in double figures including a team-high 13 points and nine rebounds from Jordan Greenleaf.

Senior Morenike Atunrase (Shreveport, La.) returned to the lineup at the 14:05 minute mark of the first half after missing the first nine games of the season. Atunrase had surgery in October to correct a non-healing stress fracture in her right tibia and was expected to return for Big 12 Conference play in January.

Postgame Notes…For the sixth time this season, A&M used the starting lineup of A’Quonesia Franklin, Takia Starks, Danielle Gant, Ashlaa Horton and La Toya Micheaux (5-1)…Starks recorded her 1,000 career point at the 14:44 minute mark of the first half and ended the night with a game-high 17…She extended her double-digit scoring streak to 16 consecutive games which dates back to the last six games of the 2006-07 season…Starks became the 19th women’s basketball player in school history to reach the milestone…She (1,014) and senior Morenike Atunrase (1,035) also became the program’s sixth 1,000 career point duo…Gant had a near double-double performance with 16 points and nine rebounds in the winning cause and has now scored in double figures in five-straight contests…Franklin dished out five assists to record her 500th career assist at A&M…She became the third player in school history to dish out 500 career assists next to All-American Lisa Branch (795) and Toccara Williams (724)…With the victory, A&M takes a 1-0 lead in the all-time series versus Auburn…A&M picked up its first home win over a non-conference top 25 opponent since an 83-73 victory over No. 16 Duke on Nov. 17, 1995 at G. Rollie White Coliseum…It was the program’s first home win against a non-conference top 25 opponent at Reed Arena…The Aggies last beat a top 25 non-conference opponent in a 75-60 win over No. 20 Mississippi on a neutral court on Dec. 18, 1995…It was also the 14th time for a ranked Aggie squad to face another ranked opponent…A&M is now 7-7 all-time in those contests…No. 14 Auburn was the highest-ranked non-conference top 25 opponent the Aggies have beaten since 1994 in four wins over a non-conference top 25 opponent next to No. 20 Florida (3/16/94), No. 16 Duke (11/17/95) and No. 20 Ole Miss (12/18/95)…The Aggies extended their home court winning streak to 23 consecutive games at Reed Arena…A season-best 3,663 fans were in attendance at Reed Arena.

POSTGAME QUOTES

TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH GARY BLAIR

On Auburn and keeping the home court streak alive …

“We almost gave it away at the end. We were doing the little things right. Transition was our strength on offense. Our screens and our defense was pretty good. By far, that’s the best team we’ve played all year. They (Auburn) are a very good ballclub and well coached. Their point guard (Whitney Boddie) kept them in the ballgame.”

On what’s ahead and beating a top 25 opponent …

“We are definitely a top 15 team and so is Auburn. We just happen to have the last possession. We are going to get better because of this game. The key to the ballgame was that both teams played good on defense. They did a good job on (Danielle) Gant and we did a good job on (DeWanna) Bonner. We both have some next-level players. This was an NCAA Sweet 16 or second round type game. We are going to continue to work and get ready for George Washington for now, but I wanted to keep that (home court winning) streak alive. We knocked off Oklahoma last year. Every game in the Big 12 is going to be like it was today, because the Big 12 North is so improved as well as the South.”

TEXAS A&M SENIOR POINT GUARD A’QUONESIA FRANKLIN

On the start of the game …

“We started off the game with two big mistakes. We scouted them very well, but let them score easily. Morenike (Atunrase) came in with a lot of energy and taking the ball off the dribble. They (Auburn) came out with a lot of energy. We took care of the ball and we played great defense. They made big shots when it counted and we got the stop. We were really jacked up to play this team. This is a new step for us to take on a top 25 team. We needed to come out and play and step up to the challenge and we did.”

TEXAS A&M JUNIOR GUARD TAKIA STARKS

On Auburn and getting the victory over a top 25 opponent …

“The weave offense, that’s a tough offense to guard. They are a great ballclub and give credit to their guards. We had a lack of ball pressure at times and lack of communication on switching. Overall, we controlled that and it helped the outcome of the game. We played like a top 10 team tonight. We stepped it up and showed our true colors. We were a top 10 team and got the win.”

AUBURN HEAD COACH NELL FORTNER

On the game …

“I thought we had a great effort by our team. We let them offensive rebound in the second half and get too many second chance opportunities. I felt that was really our biggest detriment to our team. We fought hard and had some really big plays at the end. Both teams came to play a really good basketball game and we just fell a little short. This would have been a great win to beat another ranked team. We’ll learn a lot from this game.”

AUBURN SOPHOMORE FORWARD JORDAN GREENLEAF

On the loss …

“In the first half we had too many turnovers. If we had limited our turnovers, it would have been a different ballgame. It was a great atmosphere (at Reed Arena). The season isn’t over for us and we will learn from it.”