KANSAS CITY – Fourth-seeded Texas A&M was too much for 12th-seeded Missouri as the red-hot Aggies rolled past the Tigers, 65-39, in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship held Wednesday afternoon at Municipal Auditorium.
A&M (24-7) will make its second consecutive appearance in the Big 12 semifinals and has won 11 of its last 12. Junior Takia Starks (Houston, Texas) led the way with a game-high 18 points and nine rebounds as the Aggies picked up only their fourth all-time win in Big 12 Tournament play. They also won their fourth-straight in the all-time series with Mizzou (10-21).
Junior La Toya Micheaux (Missouri City, Texas) scored seven of A&M’s first 11 points of the game on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor. Micheaux found her niche in the paint as she registered her point tally in a two and a half minute span to give A&M an 11-6 lead with 14:34 to go. She finished with a league season-high 11 points which also marked a career-best in a Big 12 Tournament game for the 6-foot-3 center.
Missouri’s Amanda Hanneman later tied things up 13-13 on two makes from the charity stripe at the 10:54 minute mark. Senior Morenike Atunrase (Shreveport, La.) came off the bench and drained a three-pointer with 8:02 left on the clock to give A&M the edge for the remainder of the half. For the game, Atunrase scored nine points on 2-of-3 shooting from long range. The Aggies led 29-22 at halftime.
A&M carried its first-half momentum into the second half as it built an 11-point lead on a jumper by Starks and lay-in by junior Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.), 33-22. Gant turned in nine points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Defensively, A&M caused the Tigers to turn over the ball 20 times in the ballgame and held them to their second-fewest points of the season (39). The Aggies held MU without a basket for the first three and a half minutes of the second half with quick back-to-back jumpers by Starks and Gant before the upset-minded Tigers called a timeout to recompose. Hanneman finally ended Missouri’s scoring drought at the 16:48 minute mark, but it wasn’t enough to hold off A&M.
Just a day removed from becoming the first 12th seed (men’s or women’s) to advance in tournament history, MU shot only 34.1 percent from the floor against the Aggies and had one player in double figures with an 11-point effort from leading scorer Alyssa Hollins. The Tigers upset fifth-seeded Oklahoma in Tuesday’s first round.
A&M will take on eighth-seeded Iowa State (20-11) in the semifinals on Thursday, March 13 at 6 p.m. The Cyclones upset top-seeded Kansas State in an overtime thriller, 66-65, in the first of four quarterfinal games. The postseason conference tournament runs from March 11-13 & 15 in Kansas City. The Aggies and Cyclones will meet in the semifinals for the second year in a row as ISU upset top-seeded A&M, 57-51, in the 2007 Championship held in Oklahoma City.
Postgame Notes…For the 14th time this season, A&M used the starting lineup of A’Quonesia Franklin, Takia Starks, Danielle Gant, Patrice Reado and La Toya Micheaux (10-4)…Franklin dished out four assists with two turnovers to record her 600th career assist to become only the third player in school history and seventh player in league history to do so…She moved up to sixth all-time among Big 12 career assists leaders with 503 career assists to date…A&M turned over the ball only 10 times against Missouri, while the Tigers (20) became the 21st opponent this season to commit 20-or-more turnovers in a ballgame…The Aggies have made 10 turnovers or less in five contests this year including a school-record four against Iowa State on Feb. 20…Micheaux scored nine of her season league-best 11 points in the first half alone…It marked a career-best point total for Micheaux in a Big 12 Tournament game which bettered her previous career-high of four points versus Nebraska in the quarterfinals of the 2006 Tournament as a freshman…It was also her first double-digit game since scoring 11 against New Orleans on Dec. 9…Starks brought down five of the team’s 17 first-half rebounds…She ended the night with a game-high 18 points and game-high nine rebounds…It tied her second-best rebound total of the season…Starks has scored in double figures in 30-of-31 contests played this season…The Aggies turned in its fourth-highest field-goal percentage of the season shooting 47.3 percent (26-of-55) versus the Tigers…With the victory, A&M evens the all-time series to 7-7 and picked up its fourth-ever win in the Big 12 Championship since the league’s inception in 1996-97…They advance to the Big 12 semifinals for the second-straight year and evens their tournament series record with Missouri to 1-1…A&M’s 26-point margin of victory was the largest all-time in a Big 12 Tournament game and largest over Mizzou in the all-time series…The Aggies previously defeated rival Texas in the first round of the 1998 Tournament by 24 points (98-74)…For the fifth-straight game, the A&M defense held their opponent to either their fewest or second fewest points of the season…The Aggies, ranked 19th nationally in scoring defense, held Mizzou to just 39 total points which was its second fewest behind 37 total points at Texas on Jan. 26…Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair claimed his first-ever victory in Kansas City as his 1998 Arkansas squad lost in the national semifinals to eventual champion Tennessee at the NCAA Final Four held at Kemper Arena…Blair and his 2005 A&M squad also lost to seventh-seeded Oklahoma in the first round of the 2005 Championship at Municipal Auditorium.
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH GARY BLAIR
On the game …
“I thought we played better defense in the first half. We got a little sloppy and they were tired and missing wide-open shots. I think Missouri lost their confidence after we got those easy baskets to open the second half. We had good bench play today. (La Toya) Micheaux opening up the game with four of our first eight points was a huge lift off of (Takia) Starks and (Danielle) Gant. It was just her night. Missouri made up its mind who they were going to stop and they did a good job. I was able to rest Micheaux by putting in Damitria Buchanan. That was key for us – to be able to rest our players. We got quality play out of (Sydney) Colson, so that our point guard (A’Quonesia Franklin) would be relaxed and be able to dissect the zone we will surely see against Iowa State. It was a good team effort. We shared the basketball very well and we only turned it over 10 times. Mizzou played us a lot tougher defensively than when we played them at our place earlier this season.”
TEXAS A&M JUNIOR CENTER LA TOYA MICHEAUX
On the game and her career-best performance in a Big 12 Championship game …
“Our team played very well and we played a good game defensively. They put a zone on us and we couldn’t hit shots. Everything was coming off of transition. When we play great defense, it carries over to our offense. They (Missouri) were really focused on Starks and Gant. I just let the game come to me and took my time today.”