COLLEGE STATION, Texas- The first edition of the Battle of the Brazos will feature two of the nation’s best as the 12th-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team (12-3, 0-1) travels up Highway 6 to eighth-ranked Baylor (13-1, 1-0) for a Saturday, Jan. 12 matchup at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas. Opening tip between the Aggies and Lady Bears is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. A&M is looking to rebound from a 67-54 setback against unranked Kansas State in the team’s Big 12 Conference opener on Jan. 9. Ironically, the Aggies are opening up league play with two of their first three opponents from a year ago in KSU and BU. Both squads are quick and athletic on the court coupled with veteran experience and depth on their rosters. Saturday’s tilt will mark the third time this season each team will go head-to-head against a top 25 opponent as the Aggies and Lady Bears have gone 1-1 versus nationally-ranked competition. A&M will have to remain focused as the Lady Bears will have a packed house at the Ferrell Center where they have won 10-straight and are averaging 5,553 fans per game which ranks 11th-best in the nation in attendance. Last season, A&M and Oklahoma were the only two Big 12 South schools to sweep BU in the home-and-home series. The Lady Bears will be seeking revenge after both team’s last outing resulted in a 63-58 Senior Day loss in Waco.
TRACKING THE LADY BEARS
Picked to finish third in the preseason Big 12 Coaches Poll behind defending champion A&M and OU, Baylor uses a balanced scoring attack as all five of their starters are averaging 11-or-more points a game including leading scorers Angela Tisdale (14.7 ppg) and Rachel Allison (13.6 ppg). The Lady Bears have won their last six games including a close 72-67 victory at Texas Tech to open up Big 12 play. Their only loss of the season occurred at fifth-ranked Stanford (87-63) on Dec. 16. Three years removed from the program’s first-ever NCAA Championship title in 2005, BU continues to flourish as it achieved its highest national ranking of the season by coming in at No. 8 in both national polls this week. In fact, the Lady Bears rank among the top 10 NCAA statistical leaders in eight categories including third-best in field goal percentage (48.7) and second-best in blocks per game (7.1). They are also holding opponents to 32.8 percent shooting from the floor which ranks second nationally behind Connecticut.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
No. Name (2007-08 Stats)
#10 A’Quonesia Franklin, G, 5-3, Sr. (7.7 ppg, 4.6 apg)
#3 Takia Starks, G, 5-8, Jr. (17.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
#55 Danielle Gant, G/F, 5-11, Jr. (14.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
#24 Patrice Reado, F, 6-0, Sr. (8.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
#12 La Toya Micheaux, C, 6-3, Jr. (4.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
No. Name (2007-08 Stats)
#20 Angela Tisdale, G, 5-7, Sr. (14.7 ppg, 2.6 apg)
#15 Jhasmin Player, G, 5-10, Jr. (13.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
#3 Jessica Morrow, F, 6-0, Jr. (11.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
#14 Rachel Allison, F, 6-1, Jr. (13.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
#11 Danielle Wilson, C, 6-3, So. (11.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg)
INSIDE THE SERIES
Texas A&M and Baylor are tied 36-36 in the all-time series between the two schools. Last year, A&M swept BU for only the second time in league history having last done so during the 1999-00 season. Nearly a year ago, A&M erased a 13-game losing skid in the series with a 60-52 win on Jan. 13, 2007 at Reed Arena in College Station. The Aggies followed that up with a 63-58 road victory on Feb. 25, 2007 in Waco. Since the league’s inception in 1996-97, BU holds a 19-5 advantage over A&M in Big 12 competition. All five of the Aggies victories in league play have happened in the new millennium in 2000, 2001 and 2007.
Danielle Gant scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half to lead No. 16 Texas A&M past No. 14 Baylor, 63-58, on Feb. 25, 2007 at the Ferrell Center. Gant hit all seven of her shot attempts in the second half and combined with Takia Starks to score 32 of Texas A&M’s 35 points after halftime. Bernice Mosby scored 24 points for Baylor with 18 in the first half on 8-of-11 shooting, but she struggled to get open looks in the second half and missed five of six shots. The Lady Bears only had one field goal in the final 8:09. Baylor shot 20 percent (6-of-30) in the second half and missed all 12 three-pointers it attempted. The Lady Bears were the third A&M opponent of the season to go without a three-pointer. The Aggies came into the game as the Big 12 leader in three-point field goal defense (27.6). Starks scored all 14 of her points in the second half. She didn’t score until hitting a 15-foot jumper with 12:44 left. Starks hit a jumper with 5:40 left that gave the Aggies the lead for good at 55-54. Two possessions later, she nailed a 15-footer to put Texas A&M ahead by three points. Baylor got within 57-56 on Danielle Wilson’s layup with 3:34 left. But Gant hit two consecutive short jumpers – the last of which put A&M ahead 61-56 with 1:48 remaining. The Lady Bears then got a pair of free throws from Angela Tisdale and forced the Aggies into a shot clock violation. That gave Baylor a chance to tie the game in the final minute. But, Starks stole a pass from Mosby and drove for an uncontested layup that gave A&M a 63-58 lead with 30.5 seconds remaining. That capped a second half in which neither team led by more than five points.
THE BLAIR REUNION TOUR CONTINUES …
Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair continues his reunion tour this weekend as Baylor will honor Louisiana Tech’s 1981-82 team which won the first-ever NCAA women’s basketball championship title in 1982 prior to Saturday’s game between the Aggies and Lady Bears. The Lady Techsters defeated Cheyney State, 76-62, to close out its season with an impressive 35-1 record. Blair will be honored alongside former La. Tech and Baylor head coach Sonja Hogg, former La. Tech head coach Leon Barmore, Kodak All-American Angela Turner Johnson and current Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey. Blair served as an assistant coach in Ruston from 1980-85 prior to landing his first head coaching job at Stephen F. Austin. Meanwhile, Mulkey was a starter on the 1982 national championship team and is the only person (male or female) to win a national title as a player, assistant coach and head coach.
TEXAS A&M OVERVIEW IN BIG 12 GAMES
Texas A&M is 52-125 all-time in regular season Big 12 games since the league’s formation in 1996-97. However, A&M has seen a drastic improvement in the Gary Blair Era (2003-Present) having gone 24-9 (.727) in its last three seasons with one Big 12 Championship title in tow and a quest for a second in the works. The Aggies have also finished a program-best third or higher in the league over the last two years and advanced to back-to-back Big 12 Championship semifinals in 2006 and 2007. In addition, A&M posted a program-best 13-3 record in league play last season.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair is 8-7 all-time versus Baylor in his 23 years as a Division I head coach. Blair previously posted a 6-0 record at Stephen F. Austin and Arkansas combined, while he is 2-7 against the Lady Bears during his program rebuild at A&M.
• For the third time this season, Texas A&M associate head coach Vic Schaefer will reunite with players on his U.S. Women’s Jones Cup Team that won a bronze medal this past summer in Taipen, Taiwan. Baylor’s Rachel Allison and Jhasmin Player were two of the team’s top scorers along with the team’s top rebounder and top shot blocker La Toya Micheaux (Missouri City, Texas) for A&M. Team USA went 4-2 in tournament pool play with wins over Korea, Japan, Chinese Taipei and New Zealand.
• Texas A&M continues to make its mark as a basketball powerhouse as one of only six schools in the country to have both its men’s and women’s basketball teams ranked in the top 25 polls. The Aggie women are ranked No. 13 and No. 12, while the Aggie men are ranked No. 11 and No. 10. A&M is among the likes of traditional basketball powers North Carolina, Duke, Tennessee, Stanford and Texas. All but one of those six schools (Stanford) are ranked No. 15 or higher in both polls.
• A&M is 5-0 against schools hailing from the Lone Star State this season with victories over SMU (62-57) on Nov. 9, Prairie View A&M (73-54) on Nov. 15, TCU (68-58) on Dec. 2, 2007 NCAA First Round opponent UT Arlington (69-55) on Dec. 28 and Stephen F. Austin (84-53) on Jan. 3. Matchups with Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech are ahead for the Aggies.
The Aggies will face three top 25 opponents in a row for the third time in five years in conference play. A&M will face No. 8 Baylor, No. 23 Colorado and No. 24/25 Oklahoma State all within a weeks time. Last season, the Aggies faced No. 22 Texas, No. 25 Nebraska and No. 6 Oklahoma consecutively at the end of January and went 2-1. During the 2003-04 season and Blair’s first year at A&M, the Aggies saw three ranked opponents at the end of January and four ranked opponents in the middle of February.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!
Sophomore Ashlaa Horton (Cedar Hill, Texas) is one of three January babies on the team who will celebrate their 21st birthday this month. Horton turns the big 2-1 a day prior to the Baylor game on Jan. 11, junior Takia Starks (Houston, Texas) on Jan. 16 and sophomore Katrina Limbaha (Riga, Latvia) on Jan. 19. Horton and Limbaha have both made the starting lineup this season playing in 15 and 11 games respectively, while Starks is averaging a team-leading 17.4 points and 34.3 minutes per game.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
A&M’s first four out of six games in league play will be contested on the road with the majority of the Aggies’ time spent against the better half of their Big 12 North slate with dates at Colorado on Jan. 16, Nebraska on Jan. 23 and Kansas on Jan. 26. A&M is 2-1 away from the friendly confines of Reed Arena with non-conference victories at SMU on Nov. 9 and at TCU on Dec. 2. Last year, the Aggies started off its conference run with a season-opening loss at K-State, but later bounced back by winning nine of its next 10 contests. They went 13-3 through the Big 12 with all three of their losses occurring on the road at Iowa State and rival Texas.
COUNTDOWN TO 500
Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair is closing in on his 500th career victory with 493 wins to date. He currently ranks second all-time among A&M women’s basketball coaches with 85 victories behind former head coach Lynn Hickey (154). The 2007 Big 12 Coach of the Year has led the Aggies to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, their first-ever conference title and the program’s highest national ranking (No. 10) in school history. Last year, he was one of four Naismith College Coach of the Year finalists next to Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma and Duke’s Gail Goestenkors who is now the head coach at Texas. Blair is one of only five active Division I women’s basketball coaches to lead three different schools to a top 25 ranking next to Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer, Ohio State’s Jim Foster, Mississippi State’s Sharon Fanning and Arkansas’ Tom Collen.
KANSAS STATE RECAP
In its Big 12 Conference opener, No. 12 Texas A&M battled to keep its nation-leading consecutive home court winning streak alive but could not catch up to a hot-shooting Kansas State squad with a 67-54 loss on Jan. 9 at Reed Arena. It was A&M’s first loss at home since a 73-54 setback to ninth-ranked Oklahoma on Feb. 18, 2006. Three players scored in double figures for the Aggies including a team-high 17 points by junior Takia Starks in her return to the lineup after suffering stomach viral symptoms that kept her out of the Stephen F. Austin game on Jan. 3. The game may have started with of string of errors by both squads, but the momentum shifted as the offense picked up and K-State built a 19-9 lead with 11:43 remaining in the first half. A&M came within four points on eight consecutive points in a span of 43 seconds by Starks including two three-pointers at the 4:57 and 4:15 minute marks. Senior Morenike Atunrase followed it up with two fastbreak layups in the paint to tie the ballgame at 29-29 with 2:04 on the clock. Atunrase finished with 12 points and three rebounds. K-State used a three-point barrage to take a 38-29 lead into halftime on threes by Shalin Spani and Ashley Sweat with 1:32 to go. The Wildcats were also able to stay composed against the A&M defense with only five forced turnovers at the half. Junior Danielle Gant made a jumper under the basket at the 16:16 minute mark of the second half to give A&M its first lead of the game, 39-38. It sparked a 15-5 run by the Aggies, but K-State countered with its own scoring spurt as A&M was held without a basket for a 10-minute stretch until a jumper by Starks with 3:39 remaining. The Aggies, however, were sent to the free throw line in that time span and made 5-of-6 to stay in the ballgame. Gant turned in a near double-double performance with 14 points, nine rebounds and four steals. The Aggies were unable to erase their double-digit deficit with last-second three-point attempts with under five minutes left on the clock. K-State built its largest lead of 14 points on a Shalee Lehning layup with 53 seconds remaining in regulation to seal the upset.
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 the Ferrell Center alongside former player Katy Pounds on KZNE 1150 AM. A live audio feed will also be available on www.AggieAthletics.com.
EARLY CONFERENCE CALL
All six games on Big 12 opening night were decided by 13 points or less including three decided within five points showing the strength of the league this season. A trio of Big 12 North schools currently lead the pack with two upsets, while Baylor and Oklahoma State have only one notch in the loss column this year. A&M is one of six conference schools who are currently ranked among the top 25 in the nation including No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 8 Baylor, No. 15 Texas, No. 23 Colorado and No. 24/25 Oklahoma State.
BIG 12 CONFERENCE STANDINGS
1T. Baylor (13-1, 1-0)
1T. Oklahoma State (13-1, 1-0)
1T. Colorado (12-2, 1-0)
1T. Oklahoma (10-2, 1-0)
1T. Nebraska (12-3, 1-0)
1T. Kansas State (9-5, 1-0)
7T. Texas (12-3, 0-1)
7T. Texas A&M (12-3, 0-1)
7T. Texas Tech (12-3, 0-1)
7T. Iowa State (11-3, 0-1)
7T. Kansas (11-3, 0-1)
7T. Missouri (7-7, 0-1)