PLANTERSVILLE- A tough stretch of six consecutive road games continues for the eighth-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team (3-0) as the Aggies travel through the Southwest to clash with Arizona (3-1) on Tuesday, Nov. 25, at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. Tipoff between the Aggies and Wildcats is scheduled for 8 p.m. (CT). The road has paid dividends for A&M as the Aggies are off to a 3-0 start after picking up a 59-56 win over an upset-minded Michigan squad on Nov. 20 in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Aggies enter Tuesday’s contest with a school-record tying No. 8 national ranking in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 Poll. A&M is searching for its fourth-straight and first-ever win in Tucson.
Arizona will play its second game in three days, after opening its home slate with a 54-47 victory over UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 23. The Wildcats ushered in the Niya Butts Era by winning the Bank of Hawai’i Classic on Nov. 14-16 in Hilo, Hawai’i. Butts, in her first season as head coach at U of A, led the Wildcats to victories over host Hawai’i (62-50) and Loyola Marymount in triple overtime (93-88) for the tournament title. Arizona’s one loss of the season was a close opening-round setback to Toledo (64-63). The Wildcats have six players over six-feet tall including 6-foot-7 redshirt senior center Beatrice Bofia who is averaging 8.3 points and 7.5 rebounds off the bench. Arizona’s height advantage has led to a +10.8 rebounding margin over opponents this year.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
No. Name 2008-09 Stats
51 Sydney Colson, G, 5-8, So. 5.7 ppg, 3.7 apg
3 Takia Starks, G, 5-8, Sr. 10.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg
22 Tanisha Smith, G/F, 6-0, Jr.-Tr. 7.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
55 Danielle Gant, G/F, 5-11, Sr. 12.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg
12 La Toya Micheaux, C, 6-3, Sr. 3.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg
No. Name 2008-09 Stats
11 Ashley Frazier, G, 5-6, Jr. 6.8 ppg, 4.0 apg
25 Reiko Thomas, G, 5-8, Fr. 10.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg
5 Jhakia McDonald, G, 5-9, Fr. 6.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg
32 Amina Njonkou, F, 6-1, Sr. 14.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg
3 Ify Ibekwe, F, 6-1, So. 13.8 ppg, 12.3 rpg
2008-09 Category TAMU UA
Overall Record 3-0 3-1
Conference Record 0-0 0-0
Points Per Game 62.7 68.0
Scoring Margin +12.3 +5.8
Rebounds Per Game 40.0 46.8
Rebounding Margin +4.0 +10.8
Field Goal Percentage 40.9 44.3
Field Goal% Defense 30.7 34.7
Three-Point FG% 31.7 26.2
Free Throw Percentage 61.4 66.3
Turnovers Per Game 17.7 20.8
Assists Per Game 13.3 11.5
Blocks Per Game 4.0 2.5
Steals Per Game 12.3 5.5
Arizona leads 2-1 in the all-time series between the two schools. A&M earned its first-ever victory in the series with a 22-point blowout (66-44) of the Wildcats on Nov. 28, 2006 in College Station. Only one current U of A player, senior Amina Njonkou, appeared in the final box score having turned in seven points and six rebounds. Arizona’s one-game advantage in the series can be credited to a 84-59 victory on Dec. 10, 1997 in Tucson. A&M’s other setback was a 96-76 loss at home versus the Wildcats on Nov. 25, 1996 in College Station.
LAST MEETING vs. ARIZONA
Takia Starks scored 20 points and Morenike Atunrase added 18 to help No. 10 Texas A&M beat Arizona, 66-44, on Nov. 28, 2006 in College Station. Texas A&M also got eight points and nine rebounds from La Toya Micheaux. Ashley Whisonant led Arizona with 14 points and Joy Hollingsworth added 13. The Aggies trailed by six early, but pulled away with a 26-5 run in the first half in which Atunrase scored nine straight and made one of her season-high five blocks of the game. She needs 10 more blocked shots to break the school record in the category. Arizona made just two of its 11 three-point attempts and scored 28 of its 44 points in the paint.
AGAINST THE PAC-10
Texas A&M is 9-11 all-time against schools hailing from the Pac-10 Conference having last met Arizona (W, 66-44) and Washington (L, 59-65) during the 2006-07 season. The Aggies are 2-1 versus Pac-10 opponents in the Gary Blair Era having played UW twice and U of A once. They have faced nine of the 10 league schools all-time except for USC. Their best record against a Pac-10 opponent is an undefeated 3-0 all-time mark versus Arizona State.
True to form, the Aggie defense is holding opponents to 30.7 percent shooting from the floor and 17.4 percent from beyond the arc. Both percentages rank second-best in the Big 12 Conference in field-goal percentage defense and three-point field-goal percentage defense through all games played. A&M opponents are averaging just 50.3 points per game which ranks third-best in the league in the scoring defense column. The Aggies are also stripping the ball away from opponents by an average of 12.3 times per game which is second only to rival Texas (12.8). In their last meeting in 2006-07, the Aggies held Arizona to only 18.2 percent shooting (2-for-11) from three-point land. The Wildcats are currently shooting 26.2 percent from the arc through their first four games of the season.
PAINTING THE TOWN WHITE
Texas A&M’s Tyra White (Kansas City, Mo.) is currently on a three-game double-digit scoring streak which marks the best start by any freshman in the Gary Blair Era (2003-Present). White made her first career start as an Aggie at Michigan on Nov. 20 and turned in 12 points versus the Wolverines. She previously registered 13 points off the bench against Mercer in the team’s season opener on Nov. 14 and No. 23 Pitt in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16. Current teammate Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.) was the closest player to rival such a streak against Saint Peter’s (8 points), Cal State Northridge (14 points) and No. 17 DePaul (19 points) during the start of her rookie campaign in 2005-06. White currently leads all Big 12 Conference freshmen in scoring averaging 12.7 points in just 21 minutes per game which is also tops for the Aggies.
THE DISH ON COLSON
Sophomore point guard Sydney Colson (Houston, Texas) is averaging 19.3 minutes per game after recovering from a torn ACL in her right knee in late June. She was released by team doctors for practice and workouts on Nov. 9 which was exactly four months to the date of her surgery on July 9. Colson is currently tied for 10th among Big 12 assists leaders (3.7 avg). Last season, she averaged 10.3 minutes per game playing back-up to four-year starting point guard A’Quonesia Franklin who led the Big 12 for four-straight years in assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Aggies will go up against three women’s basketball programs which are under the leadership of a Division I head coach with two years or less experience. Arizona head coach Niya Butts, a former SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 1997, and George Washington head coach Mike Bozeman are in their inaugural coaching campaigns, while Penn State head coach Coquese Washington is in her second season in Happy Valley. A&M head coach Gary Blair and associate head coach Vic Schaefer both coached at SEC rival Arkansas when Butts was a pupil under Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt from 1997-2000.
Up next, A&M will take part in the Timeout 4 HIV/AIDS Tournament hosted by Pepperdine over the Thanksgiving holiday break on Nov. 28-29 at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu, Calif. A first-time meeting with Penn State awaits the Aggies on Friday, Nov. 28 at 3 p.m. (CT). A&M will then face either host Pepperdine or Coppin State on Saturday, Nov. 29 at 3 or 5:30 p.m. (CT). Coppin State is the only other school in the four-team tournament field to reach the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The Eagles earned an automatic bid to the field of 64 as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament champions, but fell in the first round to top-seeded Maryland (80-66).
• Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair is 1-1 lifetime versus Arizona in his 24-year coaching career. Prior to A&M’s win over the Wildcats during the 2006-07 season, Blair’s 1995-96 Arkansas squad lost to Arizona (80-77) on March 22, 1996 in the what would be the final NWIT held in Amarillo, Texas. The Razorbacks finished in fourth place. Like the Michigan game, Blair has never coached a team on Arizona’s home court.
• A&M will make its third-ever basketball trip to the state of Arizona next to the 1993-94 and 1997-98 campaigns. The Aggies last played at Arizona State (W, 73-68) on Nov. 27, 1993 in Tempe and Arizona (L, 59-84) on Dec. 10, 1997 in Tucson to put together a 1-1 road record against schools from the Grand Canyon State.
• Aside from the 16-game Big 12 Conference slate, both Aggie Basketball programs will face men’s and women’s teams from Arizona, Stephen F. Austin and SMU in non-conference play this season. The Aggie men will host Arizona on Dec. 5 in College Station, while the Aggie women will face SFA on the road on Dec. 2 in Nacogdoches, Texas. Both teams will square off against SMU at home on Dec. 7 (women) and Dec. 17 (men) at Reed Arena.
Texas A&M 59, Michigan 56
• With the victory, A&M is an undefeated 2-0 in the all-times series with Michigan.
• For the first time this season, Texas A&M used the starting lineup of Sydney Colson, Takia Starks, Tyra White, Danielle Gant and La Toya Micheaux.
• Colson made her third career start against the Wolverines and White her first career start.
• The Aggies had close to 50 Maroon and White-clad fans in the stands with a combination of members of the Michigan and Indiana A&M Clubs in attendance.
• Junior transfer and preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Tanisha Smith did not make the trip to Michigan staying home in College Station to recover from tonsillitis.
• Damitria Buchanan tied a career-high with four key free throw makes against the Wolverines.
AGGIE NOTABLE QUOTABLES
“Arizona is very athletic. They have a brand new coach in Niya Butts who is going to change their system up completely and put a little Tennessee action in there. They will play with a lot of high energy, because that is the way she got after it as a player at Tennessee. I am looking forward to playing at the McKale Center. When I see those cactuses on the court, I know that I am at Arizona. It will be a lot of fun and it will be a new place for me to play, just like our trip to Michigan. I played this particular road schedule for a lot of different reasons. We owed a lot of teams and it was time to return the favor.” - Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair on Arizona
“We were happy to get a win on the road. Playing on the road is very tough. You have to rebound and defend more. When you have a lot of talent, though, you know how to get the W. We realize we have a lot to work on in practice and we can only get better. Our current situation reminds us of the start of Big 12 play last season. But unlike last year, we have the opportunity to use the preseason to get better and realize what our weaknesses are before conference play begins. Our goal is to go 6-0 on the road and our last two games have been an eye opener for us. We are facing our challenge, but we have to live up to it. As we continue to move up in the polls, we have to play up to that level.” – Texas A&M senior center La Toya Micheaux on two close wins versus Pitt and Michigan
“We came out with a W, ugly and all. But at least, we get to review the film and we have a chance to work on it. Last year, we got off to a 1-4 start and it wasn’t too late, because we ended up winning the conference tournament title. Now, we have a chance to correct our mistakes before we begin Big 12 Conference play. We are going to study our scouting reports really hard and come out and execute on offense better than we have and play defense better than we have been by rebounding and boxing out. We just need to be on our P’s and Q’s and get it together for our upcoming road games.” – Texas A&M sophomore point guard Sydney Colson on looking ahead
“They are wins, but we are not satisfied with them just being W’s. Once we learn how to get a win, the way we want to get a win, it will make them much more gratifying.” – Texas A&M freshman forward Adaora Elonu on the team’s last two wins
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. First-year play-by-play announcer Mike Wright will call the action live from the McKale Center alongside color analyst and former player Katy Pounds on KZNE 1150 AM. A live audio feed will also be available on www.AggieAthletics.com.
WELCOME TO THE BIG 12
Four Big 12 Conference teams are either ranked in the top 10 or knocking on the top 10 door in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 Poll released on Monday. Texas A&M (3-0) climbed four spots to No. 8 joining the top 10 club of No. 4 Oklahoma (3-1) and No. 6 Baylor (4-0). Similar to football, five Big 12 South schools are currently ranked in the top 25 including No. 11 Texas (5-0) and No. 18 Oklahoma State (2-1). Iowa State (3-0) is tied for the final spot with Xavier giving the league membership a total of six teams among the nation’s best. Overall, the Big 12 has nine schools who remain undefeated after week 1 of the college basketball season. As a league, teams have combined for a 36-4 (.900) record against non-conference competition.
ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
1. Connecticut (3-0)
2. North Carolina (5-0)
3. California (3-0)
4. Oklahoma (3-1)
5. Stanford (3-1)
6. Baylor (4-0)
7. Louisville (3-0)
8. Texas A&M (3-0)
9. Tennessee (3-1)
10. Maryland (3-1)
11. Texas (5-0)
12. Duke (3-1)
13. Rutgers (2-2)
14. Notre Dame (3-0)
15. Auburn (4-0)
16. Virginia (2-1)
17. Vanderbilt (4-1)
18. Oklahoma State (2-1)
19. Purdue (3-0)
20. Ohio State (3-1)
21. Arizona State (2-1)
22. TCU (4-0)
23. Old Dominion (3-1)
24. Michigan State (5-0)
25T. Iowa State (3-0)
25T. Xavier (2-2)