COLLEGE STATION -- Senior Morenike Atunrase scored a game-high 22 points to lead No. 13 Texas A&M to a 31-point rout of Stephen F. Austin, 84-53, Thursday night at Reed Arena.
Playing in just her fifth game of the season since surgery to correct a non-healing stress fracture in her right tibia, Atunrase was back in form shooting 9-of-13 from the floor and adding six rebounds in 25 minutes of play against the Ladyjacks (3-9).
Junior Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.) added 15 points for Texas A&M (12-2) which extended its home court win streak to 26 consecutive games which continues to lead the nation. Senior Patrice Reado (Houston, Texas) was the third Aggie player to score in double figures with 10.
A&M trailed the Ladyjacks for just the opening minutes of the ballgame, but stretched its lead out to 20 points and beyond with 14:28 remaining in regulation. The Aggies took a 16-point lead into halftime, 43-27. The A&M defense also forced SFA to commit 28 turnovers which was converted into 37 points.
Whitney Cormier was the only Stephen F. Austin player to score in double figures with a team-high 14. Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair previously coached at SFA from 1985-93 and improved his career record to 3-0 against his former school.
The Aggies will commence Big 12 Conference play against Kansas State (8-5) on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m.
Postgame Notes…For the seventh time this season, A&M used a different starting five combination of freshman Sydney Colson, senior A’Quonesia Franklin, junior Danielle Gant, sophomore Katrina Limbaha and sophomore Damitria Buchanan (1-0)…It marked the second career start for Colson, sixth career start for Buchanan and fifth career start for Limbaha…Junior Takia Starks did not suit up for the ballgame due to viral symptoms…She is expected to play in the team’s Big 12 Conference opener against Kansas State on Jan. 9…Starks previously played in 77 consecutive games and started in 69 consecutive contests since the start of her freshmen campaign in 2005-06…Senior Morenike Atunrase reached a season-high in points (10) in just the first half of alone and ended the night with a game-high 22 points…It was her first double figure game since scoring 11 points at Baylor on Feb. 25, 2007 and 10th 20-point game of her career…Eight of the 12 players who entered the ballgame scored in the first half and all but two at the end of the ballgame…A&M turned in its second-largest lead (+16) at the half this season next to an 18-point first-half lead versus Wichita State on Nov. 22…A&M’s 43 first-half points were the second-most points scored in a half this year next to 50 first-half points against Florida State on Dec. 6…The Aggie defense forced SFA to turn over the ball 28 times in the contest…The Ladyjacks became the 11th A&M victim to commit 20-or-more turnovers this season…Gant turned in her ninth consecutive double-digit game with 15 points versus SFA…She attempted the elusive quadruple double-double with a career-high six steals, season-high five assists and six rebounds…Gant went 3-of-3 from the free throw line and has now made 21 consecutive makes from the charity stripe since Dec. 20…Senior La Toya Gulley (Fayetteville, Ark.) recorded a career-high nine points in a career-high tying 16 minutes of play against SFA…A&M’s 84 points were the most points scored in a contest this season next to its previous season-high of 81 against Florida State…Senior walk-on Kiley Finstad (Cranfills Gap, Texas) entered the lineup for the first time of her career with 1:48 remaining in regulation…A&M extended its home court win streak to a school-best 26 consecutive games at Reed Arena which continues to lead the nation…With the victory, the Aggies claim only their third win in the all-time series as SFA leads 13-3.
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH GARY BLAIR
On the team’s adjustments in the lineup …
“(LaToya) Gully, Morenike (Atunrase) and (Patrice) Reado off the bench is a pretty strong threesome right there. They came in ready to play. What we wanted to do was see Sydney Colson at a starting role at the point guard position. I wanted Gulley to come in and fix what was wrong, so it was easy to slide Aqua to the two and she hit those two big threes to open the game. She did a great job of filling that role early. Colson is going to be a really good player.”
On the game and Morenike’s progress …
“I thought after we got through some early things on both the defensive and offensive end, I thought we played a pretty good basketball game. When you look at the three teams we just played UTA, North Carolina A&T and Stephen F. Austin, all three teams are very similar. They are small at the post, quick at the guards and give us problems. We think we are quick, but we are not quick as they are. I was really pleased overall on how we did. I was really pleased on how we were able to play without (Takia) Starks. Morenike (Atunrase) did a lot of very good things in there. It looked the like the Morenike of old. She was active and she was around the ball. This team is very unselfish in what we need to do to win. She’s a kid who can just make plays. She can hit the open shot on the reverse. That’s just the type of kid she is. This was a good game for Mo. We learned a lot and I was able to play a lot of kids and manage my minutes. I liked my basketball team tonight. They rarely made the same mistake twice.”
On playing his old school Stephen F. Austin …
“Stephen F. Austin’s history, Louisiana Tech’s history and Old Dominion’s history – those are three programs that have won more ballclubs then all of the rest of the little schools put together. Look at how many coaches they have produced and how many great players and All-Americans they have produced. I was just glad to be part of it. It was tough to go against Lee Ann (Riley) tonight. She scouted us pretty well and she was doing a good job of adjusting to what we were doing.”
SENIOR GUARD/FORWARD MORENIKE ATUNRASE
On her progress and recovery …
“I’m just taking it a day at a time. My teammates are helping me get better everyday in practice. I’m just getting myself back to my normal self. Everyday is progress. I just have to mentally get stronger and physically get stronger. That just comes everyday in the gym and in the weightroom.”
On the team’s health and how the team prepares mentally …
“We don’t think about it. We have so much depth on this team. We have always adjusted in the past when someone gets injured. That’s always been an asset or strong point about our team. All of my four years at A&M, we’ve always been strong in that area and it always helps to have depth.”
SENIOR GUARD LATOYA GULLEY
On her increase of her role with the team …
“Today, with T-Kay (Starks) out, I think everyone wanted to step-up and make shots. As far as my role on the team, I’m just the person who goes in and tries to fix the things that are going wrong defensively. I try to be a role player, not make any mistakes, no turnovers and hit the open shots.”
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN HEAD COACH LEE ANN RILEY
On the game …
“A&M is a good team. We knew that coming in, even though they weren’t shooting well and even though they didn’t have (Takia) Starks. Aqua (Franklin) and Morenike (Atunrase) stepped up and played at that level since they’ve been here. I just think we didn’t keep our composure and our youth really showed tonight.”