LOS ANGELES, CA -- Texas A&M avoided another first-round upset to an intrastate opponent.
Sophomore Danielle Gant (Oklahoma City, Okla.) scored 20 of her 24 points in the second half and grabbed 14 rebounds to help the fourth-seeded Aggies beat 13th-seeded Texas-Arlington, 58-50, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday. Last year, the sixth-seeded Aggies lost to 11th-seeded TCU in the tournament’s first round.
Gant went 8-for-10 from the field and 8-for-11 from the line and her 24 points matched a career high. It was also the most points scored by an A&M player in an NCAA Tournament game in school history.
Texas A&M trailed for most of the first half and was down by two at halftime, but Gant scored the first eight points of the second half to put A&M up 32-26, a lead the Aggies (25-6) wouldn’t give up. Gant scored her team’s first 13 points of the second half.
Terra Wallace had 18 points and Ashley Bobb had 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Mavericks (24-9), who had a 19-game winning streak snapped and lost for the first time since December.
Sophomore Takia Starks (Houston, Texas) added 10 points for Texas A&M and made a jumper with 2:09 that gave the Aggies a double-digit lead, 53-43.
The two Texas schools, which hadn’t met since 2002, are just a three-hour drive apart and are in the tournament’s Dallas Regional, but played 1,400 miles away at USC’s Galen Center.
Arlington was just 14-for-66 (21.2 percent). Texas A&M went 22-for-46 for 47.8 percent. The Mavericks outrebounded the Aggies, 45-32.
After Gant’s surge to open the second half, Texas-Arlington went on an 8-0 run and held A&M without a field goal for more than 4 minutes to retake the lead, but the Aggies answered with a 7-0 run that included five points from Gant to go up 39-34 with 11:56 to play.
UTA would pull within one after a three-point play from Wallace and a free throw from Tiffany Riles, but would get no closer.
The Aggies made their first four field goals of the game and blocked two shots in the opening minutes and the Mavericks looked undersized and overmatched, but UTA stuck with A&M, taking the lead 16-14 after a Maryann Abanobi layup with an assist from Wallace.
The Mavericks later had a pair of offensive rebounds that led to a reverse layup from Wallace and their biggest lead 23-18, with 4:40 to play in the half.
Junior A’Quonesia Franklin (Tyler, Texas) made a jumper with four seconds left to pull the Aggies within two at halftime.
A&M advances to second-round action against George Washington (27-3) on Monday, March 19 at a time to be announced by ESPN after the late games played at the Los Angeles first-and second-round site. The Colonials beat Boise State (24-9) in the second game of day, 76-67, to past the first round.
Postgame Notes…With the victory, Texas A&M advanced to the NCAA Second Round for only the second time in four all-time tournament appearances and first since 1994 when the Aggies made it to the NCAA Sweet 16…The Aggies are now 3-3 in NCAA Tournament games all-time…A&M used the starting lineup of junior A’Quonesia Franklin, sophomore Takia Starks, sophomore Danielle Gant, junior Patrice Reado and sophomore La Toya Micheaux…The Aggies are now 6-2 with this starting five…Sophomore Danielle Gant started for the 18th time of her career against Texas-Arlington…She recorded her seventh career double-double with a game-high 24 points and 14 rebounds…Gant recorded her 600th career point versus the Mavericks and has tabulated 610 career points to date…Her 24 points were the most points scored and her 14 rebounds were the most brought down by an A&M player in an NCAA Tournament game in school history…It marked her 17th game of the season to score in double figures and third 20-point game of her career…The UTA defense held the Aggies to under 60 points for only the 10th time this season…The Aggies were outrebounded 27-5 on the offensive end and 44-33 for the game…Texas-Arlington shot an opponent season-low 21.2 percent from the floor (14-of-66) and was the fifth team this season to shoot in the 20-percent range against the A&M defense including the second opponent in the Aggies’ last three outings…A&M went without a three-pointer in the game for the first time this season (0-of-6)…Sophomore Takia Starks was the only other player in double figures with 10 to mark her 25th game this season in double digits.