COLLEGE STATION -- After an opening weekend of close games between top 25 giants and underdogs throughout the Big 12 Conference, the eighth-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team (13-1, 1-0) is not surprised at the league’s depth and knows that every contest on the 16-game regular-season schedule will be a battle.
Case in point, the Aggies successfully fended off a late second-half rally by Missouri, a team picked to finish last in the Big 12, and escaped with a 62-56 victory on Jan. 10 on the road in Columbia, Mo. Defending the home court will be crucial this season in one of the most challenging races ever in the 13-year history of the league. After facing the rigors of a two-game road swing last week at Florida State and Mizzou, the Aggies will have a quick three-day turnaround as they return home to host upset-minded Texas Tech (10-4, 1-0) on Tuesday, Jan. 13 at Reed Arena.
Tipoff between the Aggies and Lady Raiders is set for 7 p.m. (CT). A&M is on a 12-game win streak at its home venue and continues on its best start in 35 all-time seasons of Aggie Basketball.
Texas A&M will host Junior Aggie Club Night versus Texas Tech. The Junior Aggie Club, the official kids club of Texas A&M Athletics, first began two years ago solely under women’s basketball. It has now grown to more than 1,000 members when the club expanded to include all Olympic sports. Coach Blair’s Kids Court will open one hour prior to tipoff against the Lady Raiders and will be held for one night only in the new women’s basketball practice gym in the $26 million Cox-McFerrin Center For Aggie Basketball. Tickets are available for purchase 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.
THE LADY RAIDERS AT A GLANCE
Texas Tech has won six of its last seven including a 65-62 upset of No. 4/12 Texas in its conference opener on Jan. 10 in Lubbock. The Lady Raiders were picked to finish 10th in the preseason Big 12 coaches poll despite the return of most of their members who played in the Postseason WNIT a year ago. Tech’s four losses this season have all come on the road at A&M common opponent New Mexico (54-63) or on a neutral site versus Iowa (48-56), No. 3 Cal (54-68) and South Florida (61-71) at the 2008 Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Aggies will be the third top 10 opponent the Lady Raiders will face this season next to the Longhorns and Golden Bears. They currently rank No. 36 nationally in turnovers per game (15.6) and are paced by senior forward Dominic Seals at 13.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
No. Name 2008-09 Stats
51 Sydney Colson, G, 5-8, So. 5.4 ppg, 4.0 apg
3 Takia Starks, G, 5-8, Sr. 14.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg
22 Tanisha Smith, G/F, 6-0, Jr. 8.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg
55 Danielle Gant, G/F, 5-11, Sr. 14.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg
12 La Toya Micheaux, C, 6-3, Sr. 3.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg
No. Name 2008-09 Stats
3 Maria Moore, G, 5-5, Sr. 8.1 ppg, 3.9 apg
13 Jordan Murphree, G, 6-0, Jr. 13.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
31 Ashlee Roberson, F, 5-11, Jr. 5.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg
41 Dominic Seals, F, 6-2, Sr. 13.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg
20 Kierra Mallard, C, 6-3, Fr. 8.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg
2008-09 Category TAMU TTU
Overall Record 13-1 10-4
Conference Record 1-0 1-0
Points Per Game 68.9 68.7
Scoring Margin +17.6 +8.9
Rebounds Per Game 41.1 39.9
Rebounding Margin +4.6 +2.0
Field Goal Percentage 41.8 41.2
Field Goal% Defense 33.0 36.5
Three-Point FG% 31.8 32.3
Free Throw Percentage 65.4 68.7
Turnovers Per Game 17.4 15.6
Assists Per Game 14.5 14.2
Blocks Per Game 4.2 3.2
Steals Per Game 12.7 8.5
Texas Tech holds a 52-13 advantage in the all-time series, but Texas A&M has won the last five-straight meetings between the two Big 12 South rivals including a home victory (70-56) on Feb. 17, 2008 in College Station and its third-ever win in Lubbock (63-46) on Feb. 2, 2008. Last season’s series sweep marked only the second time in Big 12 Conference play in which the Aggies were able to take two against the Lady Raiders. Tech leads 19-5 in regular-season league games versus A&M since 1996-97.
TEXAS TECH FLASHBACK
Behind the strength of a career-high 29 points by Takia Starks, No. 19 Texas A&M rolled to a 70-56 victory over Texas Tech on “Beat the Hell Outta Breast Cancer” day held on Feb. 17, 2008 at Reed Arena. Starks connected on 12-of-19 shots, including 4-of-7 from three-point range as she edged her previous career-best by a point against the Lady Raiders. Danielle Gant also hit double figures for the Aggies with 15 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Starks’ offensive outburst was complemented by a suffocating defensive effort by the Aggies, who forced the Lady Raiders into committing 24 turnovers and allowing just six assists. A’Quonesia Franklin scored eight points to become the 20th player in school history to reach the 1,000-career point plateau. A&M did a good job of protecting the ball with a team season-low eight turnovers offset by 15 assists. The Aggies carried a 34-28 advantage into halftime, but extended their lead to double digits early in the second half when a three-pointer by Sydney Colson put A&M up by 12 with just over 13 minutes to go. The Aggies’ biggest lead of the game was 16 points with 1:35 remaining in regulation.
NO BIG 12 SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY
Talk about tough scheduling. The Aggies will face all Big 12 South rivals in its next five consecutive league games with Texas Tech first in the hospitality line. A&M’s tough five-game stretch is followed by an assortment of top 25 foes (even on their hostile home courts) in No. 3 Oklahoma on Jan. 18 in Norman, Okla., No. 5 Baylor on Jan. 21 in College Station, No. 22 Oklahoma State on Jan. 24 in Stillwater, Okla., and No. 16 Texas on Jan. 28 in Austin, Texas. By far, the Aggies have the toughest go-around of any league team to open up the Big 12 season. Baylor is the next closest to a head-to-head combat with four of its next five against nationally-ranked competition in No. 20 Iowa State, OSU, A&M, Tech and OU.
AMONG NCAA LEADERS
Texas A&M currently ranks in the top 10 in five NCAA statistical categories as of Jan. 11. The Aggies remain No. 1 in the nation in three-point field goal percentage defense (.196), No. 3 in scoring defense (51.2), No. 5 in field-goal percentage defense (33.0), No. 7 in steals per game (12.7) and No. 9 in turnover margin (6.57).
IN GANT WE TRUST
Reigning Big 12 Conference Player of the Week Danielle Gant played flawless against Missouri in the team’s league opener. She shot a career-best 10-for-10 (1.000) from the floor and 2-for-2 (1.000) from the charity stripe to end the night with a game-high 22 points versus MU. It marked her 14th career 20-point game and extended her current double-digit scoring streak to four-straight games. Gant also added seven rebounds and four assists to a colorful stat line in 36 minutes of action against the Tigers. Her perfect performance from the field reset the A&M single-game record previously held by former player Lisa Jordon (9-of-9) versus Oregon State on Dec. 5, 1987. She is currently two rebounds shy of moving into third all-time in career rebounds (781) in the A&M record books.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME
Attendance and season tickets have skyrocketed since Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair entered the Aggieland hoops scene in 2003-04. Over their last three home games, the Aggies have turned in a trio of top 15 all-time school-record crowds with an increase of close to 500 per game against No. 25 TCU (5,395) on Dec. 21, No. 25 New Mexico (5,543) on Dec. 30 and George Washington (6,892) on Jan. 3. More over, A&M women’s basketball season ticket sales have increased by 276 percent since 2005.
• Head coach Gary Blair is 4-6 all-time versus Texas Tech in his 24 years as a Division I head coach. Blair earned his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 1972 and his master’s degree in education in 1974 from Texas Tech. He also played a season of baseball for the Red Raiders. A&M is 5-5 versus Tech since Blair’s first season in Aggieland in 2003-04.
• It will be a mini-reunion for two former high school teammates on Tuesday night. Texas Tech senior guard Keisha Walker (5.2 ppg) played basketball alongside Texas A&M redshirt freshman guard and preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year Tyra White (6.8 ppg) at Hickman Mills High School in Kansas City, Mo. White was a highly-touted McDonald’s All-American for the Cougars in 2007, while Walker was named Miss Missouri Basketball in 2005.
• Texas Tech junior guard Tilmila Martin returns home to the Bryan-College Station area for the first time in a scarlet and black uniform. Martin, a 2005 graduate of Bryan High School, transferred to Tech after a successful sophomore season at nearby Blinn College where she was named a third team All-American by the National Junior College Athletic Association. She currently ranks seventh nationally in free throw percentage (89.7) as of Jan. 11.
• Aside from Texas A&M associate head coach Vic Schaefer (A&M Class of ’84) coaching from the sidelines of his alma mater, Texas Tech assistant coach Kelly Curry, a Class of ‘90 graduate, returns to Aggieland for only the third time since moving from West Lafayette, Ind., to Lubbock. He is married to third-year Texas Tech head coach Kristy Curry who served as an assistant coach under former A&M head coach Candi Harvey from 1994-96, prior to receiving her first head coaching job at Purdue from 1999-2006.
Texas A&M 62, Missouri 56
• For the third time this season, Texas A&M used the starting five of Sydney Colson, Takia Starks, Tanisha Smith, Danielle Gant and La Toya Micheaux (3-0). Smith, a Kansas City native, made her fifth career start and first trip home to the state of Missouri as an Aggie.
• With the victory, the Aggies are now 4-9 all-time in Big 12 Conference openers and picked up only their second-ever victory on the road in Columbia (2-5). They also take an 8-7 lead in the all-time series with MU.
• Takia Starks moved into second all-time in career scoring at A&M with her fourth point of the game on a jumper at the 12:25 minute mark in the first half. She surpassed former player Lisa Langston (1,615) and has now knocked down 1,626 career points to date.
• Danielle Gant extended her current double-digit scoring streak to four-straight games with a game-high 22 points against the Tigers. It also marked her 14th career 20-point game and her career-best performance from the floor (10-of-10).
• La Toya Micheaux grabbed 10 rebounds and led the team in rebounding for the seventh time this season.
• The A&M defense, ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense as of Jan. 8, has held all 14 of their opponents to less than 60 points in a game this season. Missouri managed only 56 points versus the Aggies and also held them to 17.6 percent shooting from long range (3-of-17). A&M currently ranks No. 1 in the nation in three-point field goal percentage defense (.199).
AGGIE NOTABLE QUOTABLES
“Somewhere between where we were at the 1-4 mark last year, just before we started our run. We are playing about the same as we did when we beat Kansas on the road for our second win in league play. We have been a little inconsistent on some things. We have to get better. We can’t just be a jump-shooting team. We have to be a defensive team, a transition team, a free-throw shooting team, a zone-buster team and be able to execute the little things that it takes to be a good basketball team. The effort, energy and enthusiasm is good, but the execution is not where I would like for it to be. But, it is January and you cannot afford to lose games at home in the Big 12.” – Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair on where he feel his team is at right now
“I thought Texas Tech did an excellent job of winning that ballgame (against No. 4/12 Texas) in Lubbock. They were ahead for the majority of that ballgame. Some people say it is an upset, but how can it be an upset when Texas Tech has won five-straight times in Lubbock? Upsets are out the window. Rankings do not mean anything when you are talking about rivalries. Texas Tech and Texas, Texas Tech and A&M, Texas and Texas A&M, Baylor and A&M and Baylor and Texas Tech are all rivalry games.” – Coach Blair on Texas Tech’s upset of Texas in the Big 12 opener
“‘Supposed to win,’ isn’t going to buy you a whole lot of land here in College Station right now. We better find a way to take care of our home court. We have always played Texas Tech well since I first joined the league, even when we were losing in my first two years here. We still played them well. It is a good matchup. Our teams are very similar. They are a junior-senior ballclub. Dominic Seals and Jordan Murphree are two of the top 10 players in the league. The difference in their ballclub right now is their point guard play is under control instead of out of control. Their team is a lot better, because of their point guard play.” – Coach Blair on the Texas Tech series and matchup
“This our first Big 12 home game and we are playing well at home this year. If we can do what we did for the five games before Florida State and Missouri, we will be O.K. Balanced scoring is something that we will need to have in the Big 12. We can’t be just the (Danielle) Gant and (Takia) Starks show. You want to have more scoring options.” – Coach Blair on the home-court advantage and what the Aggies need to win in the Big 12
TEXAS A&M IN THE NATIONAL POLLS
The Aggies remained in the top 10 for a school-record eighth straight-week, but dropped five spots to No. 8 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll released on Monday. They are one of seven Big 12 teams currently ranked among the top 25 along with No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 5 Baylor, No. 16 Texas, No. 17 Kansas State, No. 20 Iowa State and No. 22 Oklahoma State. A&M is one of only 10 teams in the country with one loss or less this season.
ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
1. Connecticut (15-0)
2. North Carolina (16-0)
3. Oklahoma (12-2)
4. Duke (13-1)
5. Baylor (13-1)
6. Auburn (17-0)
7. Louisville (16-1)
8. Texas A&M (13-1)
9. Stanford (13-3)
10. Notre Dame (14-1)
11. California (13-2)
12. Maryland (13-2)
13. Tennessee (12-3)
14. Virginia (14-2)
15. Ohio State (13-2)
16. Texas (12-3)
17. Kansas State (14-0)
18. Vanderbilt (13-4)
19. Florida (15-2)
20. Iowa State (13-2)
21. Marist (15-1)
22. Oklahoma State (11-3)
23. Rutgers (8-5)
24. Georgia Tech (12-3)
25. New Mexico (13-2)