COLLEGE STATION -- Three players scored in double figures to keep No. 14 Texas A&M’s home court win streak alive with a 69-55 victory over UT Arlington Friday night at Reed Arena.
Junior Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.) turned in a game-high 22 points and eight rebounds, while senior Patrice Reado (Houston, Texas) contributed 12 points and five rebounds to extend the Aggies’ home court win streak to 24 consecutive games which leads the nation.
The Mavericks (5-5) may have been seeking a little revenge from a 58-50 loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago in Los Angeles. UTA may have outrebounded the Aggies by a margin of 40-33 on the glass, but A&M (10-2) countered by scoring 34 points off of an opponent season-high 35 turnovers in the ballgame.
In the first half of play, both teams seemed a little rusty after the Christmas holiday break committing 31 combined turnovers in the first period alone. A&M was coming off an eight-day layoff since an overtime loss at No. 22 George Washington on Dec. 20, while UTA last played on Dec. 21.
The Aggies could not shake off the Mavs as the lead changed six times including an eight-point deficit with 6:19 to go in the first half. A&M later went on a 17-4 run to reclaim the advantage. A three-pointer by junior Takia Starks (Houston, Texas) in the final seconds of the first period gave the Aggies a 34-29 lead at halftime.
In the second half of play, A&M picked up its defense and minimized turnovers. The Aggies never trailed as Starks ended the night with 13 points, two blocks and three steals. Despite the loss, UTA used a balanced scoring attack which included 12-point efforts by Shalyn Martin and Erin Dixon. Leading scorer Maryann Abanobi was limited to 11 points, while Tiffeny Riles added 10.
A&M continues its four-game homestand at Reed Arena with a first time meeting with North Carolina A&T (7-3) scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 30 at 3 p.m.
Postgame Notes…For the second time this year and second consecutive game, A&M used the starting lineup of A’Quonesia Franklin, Takia Starks, Danielle Gant, Patrice Reado and Damitria Buchanan (1-1)…Reado started for the third time this season and Buchanan the fifth time of her career…A&M tied a season-best in blocked shots with nine against UT Arlington…Buchanan, Starks and Reado each contributed two stops…Buchanan currently leads the team with 19…With her three-pointer at the 11:49 minute mark of the first half, senior Morenike Atunrase (Shreveport, La.) surpassed former player Lana Tucker (1,046 career points) to move into the top 10 among A&M all-time scoring leaders…She has now registered 1,047 career points which ranks 10th…UTA became the 10th victim of the A&M defense committing an opponent season-high 35 turnovers in the contest and became the seventh opponent over the last two seasons to turn over the ball 30-or-more times…The Mavericks came into the contest averaging just 18.7 turnovers per game…Gant recorded her sixth 20-point game of her career with a game-high 22 points and eight rebounds…She was one board short of recording her 500th career rebound…Last year, Gant scored an A&M single game record for points and rebounds made in an NCAA Tournament game with 24 points and 14 rebounds versus UTA in first-round action on March 17, 2007…10 of the 12 A&M players who checked into the game contributed to the final score…Reado turned in her second-straight double-digit game with 12…The third-best crowd of the season turned out for the UTA game with 3,019 in attendance at Reed Arena…Starks scored 13 points to improve her double-digit scoring streak to 18 consecutive games...Reado was hobbled by a foot sprain in the final minutes of the second half, but is expected to play on Sunday against North Carolina A&T…With the victory, the Aggies have won a school-best 24 consecutive home games at Reed Arena which currently leads the nation…A&M (9-1) has won nine-straight in the all-time series versus UTA including last year’s 58-50 win in the NCAA First Round…A&M was outrebounded (40-33) for only the second time this season next to 42-41 board battle at No. 22 George Washington on Dec. 20.
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH GARY BLAIR
On the game …
“Our expectations are a little bit higher than what we showed tonight. I’m glad it was half-priced to get in. No one deserved to pay for what they saw on the court from us tonight. We hustled and the press was very effective. We forced a lot of turnovers. That’s the best we’ve done all season off the press. If they (UT Arlington) could have controlled the ball a little better, they had a great chance to win this ballgame. They were beating us off penetration and we have to do a better job of dribble penetration or against the high-low screen. Our fatigue has nothing to do with the layoff. A lot of it was effort and communication. UTA was able to turn the corner against us all night. They were more athletic and went after the ball more.”
On being outrebounded and what worked against UTA …
“I want to get better at every position including the head coaching position. We shot the ball decently, once we stopped shooting jumpshots in the first half. It wasn’t our night shooting the basketball. We will face another NCAA-caliber team here on Sunday against North Carolina A&T. They are a team like UTA. They just play hard and are well coached. They take it to the rack and take it to the basket. The biggest adjustment I made in the first half was when I put in LaToya Gulley which changed the game. She did a good job of controlling us. UTA played exactly how they played us in the NCAA Tournament last year. They can put the ball on the floor and get by us and they were good tonight.”
JUNIOR FORWARD/GUARD DANIELLE GANT
On the slow first half and changes made in the second half …
“In the first half, we were a little tired. But, we have to learn how to push through when we are tired. The first half wasn’t great because we were tired. We just need to learn how to play through it. Coach Blair was telling us to get after it on defense (at halftime). On defense, we communicated better in the second half. Communication is the key to our offense and defense.”
SENIOR FORWARD PATRICE READO
On the game and being outrebounded by UTA …
“We were a little sluggish offensively and defensively. Maybe, if we overcome our tiredness, we’ll be a better team on defense and offense. It was very unusual (to be outrebounded by our opponent). But, that’s something Coach Blair has us working on everyday in practice that we need to box out. I felt like today, we didn’t do as good of a job that we could have on the boards. But, I know tomorrow in practice we will be boxing out, so something like this won’t happen again on Sunday.”
UT ARLINGTON HEAD COACH SAMANTHA MORROW
On the game …
“I think our kids battled tonight. Texas A&M is a good team. They are athletic and caused us to turn the ball over. I was proud of our effort, but they just forced us to turn the ball over, which cost us the game. (Takia) Starks is a good player. As much as you yell at your players to guard her, occasionally they have a brain slip and she hits the shot. But, that’s the Big 12 player that she is. (Danielle) Gant is the same way. I thought our effort was there. I would just like to win a game like this, instead of just our effort being there.”