BATON ROUGE, La. – No. 10 Texas A&M improved to 2-0 on the season with a 56-50 victory over No. 23 Pittsburgh in its first-ever appearance in the State Farm Women’s Tip-Off Classic held Sunday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
After a slow start by both teams, sophomore point guard Sydney Colson (Houston, Texas) came off the bench to spark the Aggie offense scoring seven-straight points including a three to put A&M ahead, 21-20, with 1:24 to go in the first half. Colson, who is coming off surgery on a torn ACL in June, ended the night with 12 points, three assists and two steals in 22 minutes of play.
Pitt’s top returning player Shavonte Zellous had two quick fouls in under two minutes of the ballgame, but scored 23 points to lead the Panthers (0-1). She went 3-for-16 from the floor, but was 14-for-16 from the free throw line. Both teams combined for a total of 45 fouls called in the ballgame.
Preseason Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year Tyra White (Kansas City, Mo.) led the Aggies in the scoring column for the second-straight game with a team-high 13 including back-to-back three-pointers with under eight minutes remaining that stretched A&M’s lead out to as many as nine.
The Aggies outrebounded Pitt, 42-37, behind the board work of senior All-America candidate Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.) who had a game-high 13 along with nine points which was just short of a double-double. The win also marked A&M’s fourth all-time win over a nationally-ranked opponent in non-conference play.
A&M will continue its six-game road trek by traveling North for a Thursday, Nov. 20 contest at Michigan (1-0) in Ann Arbor, Mich. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network at 5:30 p.m. (CT). Check your satellite or local cable providers listings for availability.
• For the second-straight game, Texas A&M used the starting lineup of Danielle Gant, Takia Starks, Tanisha Smith, Adaora Elonu and La Toya Micheaux. The starting five is now 2-0 this season.
• With the victory, the Aggies lead 1-0 in the all-time series versus Pittsburgh. They also picked up their fourth all-time win over a top 25 opponent in non-conference play next to No. 16 Duke in 1995-96, No. 20 Ole Miss in 1995-96 and No. 14 Auburn in 2007-08.
• A&M made its first-ever State Farm Women’s Tip-Off Classic appearance and became only one of 32 all-time Division I teams and the seventh school from the Big 12 Conference to be invited to the prestigious tournament.
• Sophomore Sydney Colson registered 12 points (one shy of her career-high of 13) in only her second game after recovering from an ACL injury to her right knee which required surgery back in June.
• Redshirt freshman Tyra White has now come off the bench and turned in back-to-back games in double figures with team-highs of 13 versus Mercer and 13 against Pitt. She connected on three of the team’s six three-pointers of the game.
• Senior combination guard/forward Danielle Gant fell shy of a double-double with nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds against Pitt.
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH GARY BLAIR
On the game and Pitt …
“You can still win and not be at your best, even if it is on national television or not. You have to take it and feel good about yourself. We did some things well tonight. It was tough for both teams to play without their point guard. When Pitt lost Jania Sims, it really effected them. She was only able to go five minutes before getting hurt. Sydney Colson was only supposed to play 10 minutes in her second game back. How many of us can come back in four months with ACL and meniscus surgery and put in the work this kid has done. We would not have won this game, if Sydney did not come in and give us that spark we needed in the first half. In the second half, she did everything she could. There is no way that I should have played her for that many minutes tonight. Agnus (Berenato) has done a tremendous job there at Pitt. We just had a little more depth than she had and I think that paid off for us.”
On playing defense and it being ugly …
“We are a pretty good offensive team. They were playing pretty good defense on (Takia) Starks. I give credit to their defense which was a lot better than what we saw on film. They did an excellent job on the defensive end compared to what we saw last year on the defensive end (from our opponents). For both teams this early in the season, our offense is going to struggle. Particularly, with both of us patchwork at the point guard position. Point guard is the most important position on a team. For four years, we had A’Quonesia Franklin running the show and Sydney Colson backing her up. Sydney worked hard to get back and gave us that lift in the ballgame that we needed to have. The game doesn’t always have to be about jumpshots.”
On Tyra White’s play over the last two games …
“She is going to be very special, once I can keep her speed up to the level we like to play at. I call her Sleepy, because sometimes she glides when I want her to explode. She has one of the most beautiful shots in the country. I thought her two threes that she hit in the second half were the difference in the ballgame. As for her free throws, I am going to back her up to the three-point line and have her shoot free throws from there. Every time that we had a chance to break the game open, we couldn’t finish it (by making our free throws). Give Pitt credit. They came back and they were hitting their free throws.”
TEXAS A&M SOPHOMORE POINT GUARD SYDNEY COLSON
On the game …
“Whenever we are playing a team, we have our veterans match up on their best players and they always do an excellent job. Danielle Gant and Takia Starks did a tremendous job on Shavonte Zellous, even though 75 percent of her shots were from the free throw line. That was our fault for fouling so much in the ballgame. We definitely take pride in our defense. D.G. and T-Kay are definitely the best stoppers on our team.”
TEXAS A&M REDSHIRT FRESHMAN TYRA WHITE
On the game and coming back from her ACL injury last season …
“It was really special to play here tonight in the Tip-Off Classic. I just wanted to come out and play hard for my team. Coach Blair said that Pitt was going to be on Takia Starks the whole night and he did not want everyone stuck on the bench. He wanted more production out of everyone on our team.”
PITTSBURGH HEAD COACH AGNUS BERENATO
On the game …
“First of all, it was a great experience to be in the State Farm Tip-off Classic. I just want to say that. It was an awe-inspiring experience, and it was like a dream come true. I think for my student-athletes, I hope they really took in and soaked in everything that came along with this tournament from the minute we heard we were going to be in this tournament. It was really big for us. We are an up and coming program and one that is trying to get to the elite level. We felt extremely prepared for the game today. We were excited to play Texas A&M, and we were fired up to see how we competed against the No. 10 team in the country. We came up three baskets short or two three-pointers short.”
On the team’s struggles in the ballgame …
“I felt like both teams struggled all night. It wasn’t a pretty game of basketball, but somebody was going to win, and somebody was going to lose. I compliment Coach Blair and his Aggies for getting the ‘W.’ It is just a game for us. I am probably a little bit more concerned right now about the loss of our point guard, Jania Sims. I just want to give a shout out to Xenia Stewart who stepped in and played the point. She is nowhere close to a point guard, and she did a phenomenal job. That is what is special about Pitt. Everybody had to adjust a position here and there. We not only were without Jania, but in the first 20 seconds of the game, Shavonte (Zellous) had two fouls, and she was out. Xenia had tremendous responsibility on her against one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Texas A&M really got after it.”