Blair's Bombers Top Texas

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas – In the first edition of the State Farm Lone Star Showdown, No. 20 Texas A&M fended off a late second-half rally by rival Texas to secure its fourth-straight win in Big 12 Conference play, 66-57, Saturday afternoon before a season-high crowd of 4,910 at Reed Arena.

In the finals seconds of regulation, senior Morenike Atunrase (Shreveport, La.) was sent to the free throw line twice where she converted 3-of-4 shots to give A&M (17-6, 5-4) a nine-point edge and its second consecutive win over the Longhorns (15-8, 3-6) in the 72-game series between the two storied rivals.

A&M led by as many as 19 points with 33 seconds left in the first half of play as UT trailed 39-22 at halftime. The Longhorns made their comeback in the second half and cut the lead to as few as four points with 1:45 to go, 59-55. Defensively, the Aggies kept UT on its toes forcing 21 turnovers including 12 in the first half alone.

Junior Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.) scored 18 of her game-high 25 points in the first half and combined with teammates Takia Starks (Houston, Texas) and Patrice Reado (Houston, Texas) to account for 48 of the team’s final 66 points in the ballgame. Gant nearly tripled her career-best performance against the Longhorns in five tries on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor. Starks turned in 13 points, while Reado was short of a double-double with 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds for A&M.

Three Texas players scored in double figures including a team-high 12 points from Earnesia Williams. The A&M defense held leading scorers Brittainey Raven and Ashley Lindsey to only 10 points each.

Senior point guard A’Quonesia Franklin (Tyler, Texas) contributed a well-rounded game for the Aggies with 10 of the team’s 17 assists coupled with nine points, five rebounds and two steals versus the Longhorns. It marked her seventh double-digit assist game of her career as A&M improved to 10-2 at home this year. Meanwhile, Texas remained winless on the road in Big 12 play.

The Aggies travel to No. 10 Oklahoma (16-4, 6-2) for a Tuesday, Feb. 12 road matchup at 7 p.m. in Norman, Okla.

Postgame Notes…For the eighth time this season, Texas A&M used the starting lineup of A’Quonesia Franklin, Takia Starks, Danielle Gant, Patrice Reado and La Toya Micheaux (5-3)…The Aggies led by 17 points at halftime which marked the second-largest halftime lead of the season next to an 18-point halftime advantage over Wichita State on Nov. 22…A&M’s 39 first-half points were the most points given up by Texas in the first half this year…It tied the fourth-most first-half points scored by the Aggies this season…Gant averaged one point per 18 minutes of play in the first half by scoring a season-high 18 first-half points which was one better than her previous best of 17 first-half points against Florida State on Dec. 6…She ended the game with a career-best 25 points versus the Longhorns…Her previous best against UT was a pair of eight-point outings during her freshman campaign in 2005-06…She tripled her all-time scoring output against Texas and went 8-of-12 from the floor and 9-of-10 from the charity stripe…Reado registered 10 points in 33 minutes of action to mark her third consecutive double-digit game in league play…Franklin dished out 10 assists versus the Longhorns to mark her seventh double-digit assist game of her career…She added nine points and is now three points away (997) from capturing her 1,000th career point at A&M…Starks extended her consecutive double-digit scoring streak to a career-best 28-straight games with 13 versus UT…Five of A&M’s nine league games have been decided by 10 points or less resulting in a 3-2 mark for the Aggies…UT became the 15th victim of the A&M defense this season with 21 miscues in the ballgame…A&M converted Texas turnovers into 11 points…The Aggies saw its largest crowd of the year with a season-best 4,910 fans in attendance at Reed Arena…More than 150 kids participated in A&M’s “Ultimate Aggie Sports Camp” held prior to tipoff…With the victory, A&M has now won four of its last five meetings with UT including its second straight…For the 13th time this season and second consecutive contest, the Aggies shot better than 40 percent (41.5) from the floor.



On the team’s first-half performance …

“In the first half, we played as well as we could. The key in the first half was getting (Ashley) Lindsey to commit two fouls after she was playing so well offensively. I thought we had our way at the end of the first half with (Danielle) Gant going against kids her size in there and she was able to finish. That was a big play in the first half. I really like our decision making in the first half. We were taking care of the ball and we knew where the traps were coming even though we had nine turnovers. They trap better than anyone in our league. You have to give them credit. What Gail (Goestenkors) is doing to their personnel is accentuating their strengths. They are one of the better defensive ballclubs we have played all year. In the second half, I said, ‘let’s just win the first five minutes.’ We came out and played so sluggish, but Texas was doing the same thing. Somebody was going to wake up and want to win this ballgame along the way and Texas did. We made enough plays down the stretch and Aqua (Franklin) made a lot of good decisions.”

On players who stood out in the game and the team getting their fourth-straight Big 12 win …

“(Patrice) Reado is a street player and did a good job early for us. We were able to play her for a half and keep her out of foul trouble. She is just playing well for us right now. Rebounding was the key. I thought we did a good job o the boards the whole ballgame. Texas is like a mirror image of ourselves. Our personnel is very similar. I’m just happy for the win. They were mixing up the zone and man in the second half and we weren’t doing a good job. This game was so important to us, because we were playing at home. The sluggishness, we have done this before. But, Aqua (Franklin) wasn’t going to let us lose at the end. A lot of people have written us off and said maybe last year was a fluke. We are not a fluke. We are a hardworking team. We know who we are and what we can do. We just take it one game at a time.”


On the team’s fourth consecutive win in Big 12 play and the team finally finding their stride …

“I think we are. It all started with the Kansas game. In practice this week, we had great intensity and great focus which I believe has led to this win tonight. We figured that out for the first couple of games that we lost that the target was on us and we have to come out and player hard every game.”


On the first half and second half of play and what the team has changed …

“In the second half, they (Texas) did a tremendous job of switching from zone and man. They did a great job on transition and got the ball to the hole. We came out a little flat and we wanted to jump out on them in the first five minutes coming out of halftime, but they did a great job of scoring. Basically, we wanted to do what we have been doing the last four games inside and outside. We did a great job of pressuring on defense. That’s been our main focal point – to get back to the defense we played last year.”


On the game and opportunities inside …

“In the first half, my teammates saw me posting up on the right block and found me in the game and I delivered for them. Everyday we go through a three-on-three rebounding drill. The past couple of games, we have been rebounding well. Now, I take rebounding as a challenge and try to be aggressive as I can.”


On the game …

“I have to give great credit to A&M. They came ready to play and had great focus and energy. The defense, especially in the first half, was the best I’ve seen them play. When they got us to turn the ball over a couple of times, it fed their energy and they became more aggressive. That’s some of the best defense we’ve seen in a long time. As far as my team, when we got the two fouls on Ashley (Lindsey) and Britt (Raven), our energy level went down. We got away from our game plan. I was very proud of our effort in the second half to make a game of it. This is another game where we gained valuable experience and we will learn and grow. It’s been a tough road, but we keep getting better.”

On the rivalry and containing A&M’s Danielle Gant …

“The crowd was excellent. I think this is going to be a great rivalry. I know it has been in the past and I know it will be in the future. I’ve known Gary (Blair) for many, many years. He’s an outstanding coach and competitor. It’s like a chess match when you play him. He’s always thinking the game. I anticipate many great games in the year’s to come. She (Gant) did a great job. We lost her in the zone. She doesn’t get out of her game. She’s very strong and has a great mid-range jumper.”


On the team’s demeanor at halftime and what Coach Goestenkors said in the lockerroom…

“We just had to come out and play with heart. When A&M got on their run, our body language was if the game was already over. She gave us a motivation speech about teams coming back from 20 points down and winning games. She said that we could be that team today.”


On the team’s second-half comeback …

“We were disappointed that we let the game get out of our hands at halftime. In the second half, we just went out there and played like we should have. People came off the bench and gave us some energy. We started to score and get our rhythm back and I think that’s what got us back into the game.”

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