COLLEGE STATION- Final exams are completed, but now, the next test for the third-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team (8-0) will be a two-game homestand with the likes of Texas State (4-4) and No. 19/22-ranked TCU (8-2) looking to play the upset card before the Christmas holiday break. The undefeated Aggies will host the visiting Bobcats first on Saturday, Dec. 13 in a 7:30 p.m. (CT) weekend tilt at Reed Arena, prior to their second top 25 showdown of the season versus the Lady Frogs on Sunday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. (CT). A&M has won 34-straight home contests against non-conference competition since January of 2004 and currently boasts an eight-game home court win streak. Texas State is one of four remaining opponents on the Aggies’ non-conference home slate that posted a 20-win season and reached postseason play a year ago. A&M’s savvy pre-Big 12 scheduling and roster depth has resulted in its program-best 8-0 start and highest-ever national ranking in school history in this week’s national polls.
Half-Price Holiday Hoops continues with the Texas State game on Dec. 13 through the men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader with McNeese State and George Washington on Jan. 3. Tickets are available for purchase starting at $2.50 by calling 1-888-99-AGGIE, online at www.12thmanfoundation.com, or in person at the 12th Man Foundation Ticket Center’s Kyle Field or Reed Arena locations. Coach Blair’s Kids Court will open at 6:30 p.m. and Players-In-Progress (PIPS) will show off their basketball skills at halftime.
TRACKING THE BOBCATS
Texas State will be the second Southland Conference opponent the Aggies will face in their last three games after a 77-36 rout of Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 2. The Bobcats were picked to finish second behind UTSA in the preseason league coaches poll, while the sports information directors poll had them selected as No. 1 in the six-member West Division. Last season, the Bobcats compiled a 21-11 record en route to their first regular-season title in school history under 2008 Southland Conference Coach of the Year Suzanne Fox. They received a bid to the Postseason WNIT, but fell to Big 12 rival Texas Tech, 82-49, in second-round action. Senior Ashley Cole, who is averaging a team-best 11.4 points per game, was named to the preseason All-SLC Second Team. She ranked sixth in the league in field-goal percentage (.478) in 2007-08.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
No. Name 2008-09 Stats
51 Sydney Colson, G, 5-8, So. 5.1 ppg, 2.9 apg
3 Takia Starks, G, 5-8, Sr. 12.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg
55 Danielle Gant, G/F, 5-11, Sr. 12.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg
21 Adaora Elonu, F, 6-1, Fr. 8.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg
12 La Toya Micheaux, C, 6-3, Sr. 3.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg
No. Name 2008-09 Stats
4 Victoria Davis, G, 5-6, Jr. 9.0 ppg, 4.0 apg
2 Ashley Cole, G, 5-9, Sr. 11.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg
15 Gabriell Mattox, F, 5-11, So. 6.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg
33 Kim Cessna, F, 6-2, Sr. 10.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg
34 Aimee Hilburn, F, 6-1, Jr. 7.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg
2008-09 Category TAMU TXST
Overall Record 8-0 4-4
Conference Record 0-0 0-0
Points Per Game 66.2 68.5
Scoring Margin +16.8 +2.5
Rebounds Per Game 40.8 38.0
Rebounding Margin +4.4 +2.5
Field Goal Percentage 41.7 41.9
Field Goal% Defense 31.3 43.0
Three-Point FG% 34.3 32.2
Free Throw Percentage 67.3 66.2
Turnovers Per Game 19.4 17.8
Assists Per Game 13.3 13.3
Blocks Per Game 5.3 2.4
Steals Per Game 12.3 8.0
INSIDE THE SERIES
The Aggies lead 11-2 in the all-time series against Texas State. Both teams last met in a 73-55 A&M victory over the Bobcats on Dec. 4, 2004 in Head Coach Gary Blair’s second season in College Station. Prior to that meeting, a 92-48 win over the Bobcats on Jan. 3, 2004, ironically marked the beginning of the Aggies’ current home-court win streak versus non-conference opponents. A&M has won the last seven-straight meetings between the two schools since 1977 and has posted a 5-1 mark when playing the Bobcats at home.
TEXAS STATE TIME WARP
Charlette Castile matched her career-high with 19 points to lead Texas A&M over Texas State, 73-55, on Jan. 4, 2004 at Reed Arena. Castile scored 16 of her 19 points in the second half as A&M battled a Bobcat squad that cut the Aggies’ 16-point lead to three points midway through the final half. A&M used solid shooting from the field coupled with sluggish shooting by Texas State to open the game on a 21-5 run. Texas State battled back with a 12-2 run and a jumper by Tamara Thompson closed the gap to 23-17 with 7:45. Later, Texas State’s Ally Kelly drained a three-pointer to pull the Bobcats within three points, 30-27, with 1:01 to play in the half. The Bobcats started the second half on a 6-2 run to get within one, 34-33. But, Castile answered with a three-pointer from the right side to start her second-half scoring prowess. The Aggies pulled away from the Bobcats over the last 3:28 as a Castile three-pointer sparked a 13-2 run to close out the game. Patrice Reado scored 13 points and grabbed a career-best seven rebounds. Tamea Scales added 13 points and six rebounds, while Morenike Atunrase scored 10 points and four rebounds. The Aggies scored 30 points on 19 Bobcat turnovers. Texas State was paced by Tori Talbert who scored 17 points with eight rebounds.
The Aggies currently rank No. 1 in the country in three-point field goal defense (.167), No. 6 in scoring defense (49.5) and No. 6 in field-goal percentage defense (31.3) among NCAA statistical leaders as of Dec. 7. They are one of just 10 unbeaten teams in the nation next to Auburn (10-0), Connecticut (6-0), Illinois-Chicago (4-0), Kansas State (8-0), Mississippi State (6-0), North Carolina (9-0), Richmond (8-0), Texas (8-0) and Wake Forest (7-0).
WHAT A STEAL!
Opponents should beware of the Aggie defense during the Christmas holidays looking for a steal of a deal on the basketball court. A&M currently leads the Big 12 averaging 12.3 steals per game which ranks 16th nationally. In fact, three Aggies rank among the top 10 league players in steals including sophomore Sydney Colson (4th, 2.5 avg), senior Danielle Gant (5th, 2.3 avg) and freshman Adaora Elonu (8th, 2.2 avg). Colson has made 20 of A&M’s 98 total steals of the season including a career-high tying five against SMU on Dec. 7, while Elonu stripped the ball a career-high tying four times against the Mustangs. Both Colson and Elonu have made at least one steal in all eight games of the season.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
The Aggies have protected their home court well over the last four seasons with a 92 percent winning percentage at Reed Arena. They have put together an unprecedented 46-4 overall four-year home-court record to date including a 14-2 mark in 2007-08 and a school-best 16-0 mark in 2006-07. A&M has compiled eight-straight home court victories dating back to a 62-43 win over Missouri on Jan. 29, 2008 in Big 12 play. Since the 2004-05 season, the Aggies are 57-9 overall (.864) at their home venue.
LOOKING AT THE RPI
Texas A&M is rated No. 4 in the Jeff Sagarin/CBN Women’s College Basketball Ratings and No. 7 by CollegeRPI.com as of Dec. 11. The Aggies own the third-toughest schedule (35th) among undefeated teams in the nation behind second-ranked North Carolina (8th) and top-ranked UConn (22nd). Five of A&M’s non-conference opponents are rated No. 35 or better including Pittsburgh (21), Michigan (26), TCU (32), New Mexico (24) and Florida State (22).
• Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair is an undefeated 18-0 lifetime versus Texas State and 14-0 against Southland Conference schools since his first season in Aggieland in 2003-04. A&M has met two SLC opponents in the first round of the NCAA Tournament over the last two years in UT Arlington in 2007 and UTSA in 2008.
• Three coaches on both sidelines have been honored as Southland Conference Coach of the Year a total of eight times in 26 all-time seasons of SLC women’s basketball. Texas A&M head coach and former Stephen F. Austin head coach Gary Blair was selected SLC Coach of the Year five times in 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993, while Texas A&M associate head coach and former Sam Houston State head coach Vic Schaefer was honored in 1996. Texas State head coach Suzanne Fox garnered COTY honors in 2000 and 2008.
• A&M will close out its non-conference Texas four-step with Texas State on Dec. 13 and TCU on Dec. 21 after previous in-state showdowns with Stephen F. Austin (W, 77-36) on Dec. 2 and SMU (W, 80-48) on Dec. 7.
• Texas State assistant coach Holly Sartor is a familiar face in Aggieland. She has served as a camp coach for several Texas A&M Women’s Basketball Camps over the summer months, while a graduate assistant at nearby Sam Houston State and a coach in the junior college ranks.
TEXAS STATE RECAP
Texas A&M 80, SMU 48
• For the fourth time this season, Texas A&M used the starting five of Sydney Colson, Takia Starks, Danielle Gant, Adaora Elonu and La Toya Micheaux (4-0).
• Takia Starks scored a season-high 21 points against SMU to move past former players Donna Roper (1,513) and Prissy Sharpe (1,506) in A&M’s all-time career scoring list with 1,525 career points to date. She went a season-best 7-of-13 from the floor and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. It marked her 18th 20-point game of her career.
• Adaora Elonu turned in back-to-back double-digit games with 12 versus SMU and a career-high 17 at Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 2. She has reached double figures in three games this season including 10 at Michigan on Nov. 20.
• A&M earned its third-straight win in the all-time series versus SMU to mark its 25th victory overall. It marked the first time in the last six games of the series in which a contest between the Aggies and Mustangs was decided in double figures (+32) since an 18-point A&M loss at SMU (92-74) on March 1, 2006.
• The Aggie defense held SMU to its fewest points in a half this season with 18 first-half points. The Mustangs’ previous low was 29 first-half points at Eastern Illinois on Nov. 22. A&M has held three opponents this year to under 20 points in the first half with SMU (18 points) on Dec. 7, Stephen F. Austin (12 points) on Dec. 2 and Mercer (15 points) on Nov. 14.
• A&M has outscored opponents by more than 10 points a game in four of its last five contests. A&M’s 32-point margin of victory was its second-largest of the season next to a 41-point rout of SFA (77-36) on Dec. 2.
• The Aggies scored their most points in a game this season with 80 total against SMU including a season-best 43 first-half points. It marked their third consecutive game to surpass 70+ points along with 70 at Pepperdine on Nov. 29 and 77 at Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 2.
AGGIE NOTABLE QUOTABLES
“I know Coach Fox very well and she always has a good program. They have a couple of transfers on their roster including one from Texas, Gabriell Mattox, who is an incredible athlete and a former Class A player. She is one of those kids that jumps out of the gym. We are going to have to guard her and play hard as a team. I would like to go deep in my rotation against Texas State, but winning and improving is the most important thing to us right now.” – Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair on Texas State
“We are very proud of our No. 3 ranking. There are four Big 12 schools ranked in the top 10 and we are all very deserving. Obviously, it is good for recruiting and it is good for our fans. Hopefully, it will help us at the turnstiles. We have all recruited well. This is very much a coach’s league. You have some very good veteran coaches and some good young coaches. Next year, the league is going to be mind-boggling, particularly with the recruiting classes that are coming in. All of a sudden, we have four teams in the top 10 and six in the top 25 which is going to happen all year long, particularly with the Big 12 South teams.” – Coach Blair on A&M continuing to climb the national polls and the depth of the Big 12 Conference
“Right now, we are glad finals are over. It was a lot of pressure on us, after being gone for three weeks on the road. We missed a lot of class, but we were able to catch up and get it done. Now, it is time for us to go to work, focus on practice and get better before conference play.” – Senior All-America candidate Danielle Gant on final exams
“It is something we think about, but we do not go out and say, ‘we are No. 3 and you cannot beat us.’ Everyday is going to be a difficult game for us, just because we are No. 3 in the country. Everyone is looking to come after us. Our main focus right now is to play one game at a time. To have four Big 12 teams in the top 10 is good. It really says a lot about the Big 12 and how hard we work as a team.” – Danielle Gant on being ranked as high as No. 3 in this week’s Coaches Poll
“I hear about it a lot from my professors, classmates, the fans and people in the community. I do not know if there is really pressure on us, but I feel that we should own up to it.” – Freshman Adaora Elonu on being ranked No. 3 in the country
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 Mike Wright will call the action live from Reed Arena alongside color analyst Tap Bentz on KZNE 1150 AM. A live audio feed will also be available on www.AggieAthletics.com.