BERKLEY, CA -- The tenth-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team (4-0) hits the road for the second time this season traveling to the Colliers International Classic on Dec. 5-6 in Berkeley, Calif. The Aggies will face Southern Illinois (0-4) in the opening round of the tournament on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 4:30 p.m. (CT).
They will move on to play either host No. 19 California (3-2) or Colorado State (5-2) in the consolation or championship game on Sunday, Dec. 6 at 2 or 4:30 p.m. (CT). All games to be played at Haas Pavilion on the Berkeley campus. A&M is coming off a 106-56 rout of Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 2 which marked the third-most points scored in a game in school history.
The Aggies, who are usually known for their signature pressure defense, have nine players who are contributing to a 53.5 percent shooting percentage from the floor and to an equally impressive 53.8 percent accuracy from beyond the three-point arc. They currently rank among the top five teams in the country in scoring offense (91.5) and are limiting opponents defensively to a 33.2 field-goal percentage and 26.2 three-point field goal percentage. A&M will enjoy four days in the Bay Area with sightseeing opportunities to the Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39. This will be one of the toughest stretches of the season for the Aggies as they embark on a four-game in seven-days schedule with a home date with North Texas awaiting them upon their return to College Station on Dec. 8.
SCOUTING THE SALUKIS
Southern Illinois is still searching for its first win of the season under the direction of first-year head coach Missy Tiber who looks to rebuild the program which returns only five letterwinners and one starter from last year’s 9-19 squad. Texas A&M will be the second top 25 opponent the Salukis will face in their first five games of the season after dropping a 90-64 decision at home to No. 18 Vanderbilt on Nov. 18. Like the Aggies, SIU has relied on balanced scoring throughout its lineup with four players averaging double figures including a team-leading 14.0 points by freshman guard Teri Oliver, who is one of nine newcomers on the roster.
SCOUTING THE BEARS
California has played a very challenging non-conference schedule with its two losses of the season coming against a pair of top 10 foes in No. 8 Baylor (69-49) on Nov. 22 and No. 3 Ohio State (83-71) on Nov. 29. The Golden Bears are paced by All-American and National Player of the Year candidate Alexis Gray-Lawson who is averaging 13.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. There are five players over 6-foot-2 in height on the Cal roster which factors into their current 42.4 average on the boards this season which is the best by any of the teams in this weekend’s tournament field. The Bears were picked to finish second behind Stanford in the preseason Pac-10 Coaches Poll.
SCOUTING THE RAMS
Colorado State is currently on a three-game winning streak with victories over Texas State (66-54) on Nov. 27, Delaware (67-44) on Nov. 28 and Idaho (65-55) on Dec. 1. The Rams were picked to finish eighth in the preseason Mountain West Conference poll and finished 10-21 during the 2008-09 season. They have three players who are averaging double figures in the scoring column including 19.0 points per game by leading scorer Kim Mestdagh. CSU is also averaging 42.0 rebounds per game behind the board work of Meghan Heimstra who boasts double-double numbers with 10.3 ppg and 10.3 rpg.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
No. Name 2009-10 Stats
51 Sydney Colson, G, 5-8, Jr. 8.0 ppg, 6.3 apg
20 Tyra White, G, 6-0, RS-So. 9.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg
22 Tanisha Smith, G/F, 6-0, Sr. 19.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg
21 Adaora Elonu, F, 6-1, So. 9.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg
2 Damitria Buchanan, F, 6-2, Sr. 2.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg
No. Name 2009-10 Stats
15 Stephany Neptune, G/F, 5-8, Sr. 13.8 ppg, 5.0 apg
22 Teri Oliver, G, 5-9, Fr. 14.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg
1 Christine Presswood, G, 5-7, Sr. 13.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg
13 Eboni Crayton, G/F, 5-8, Jr. 10.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg
20 Katrina Swingler, F, 6-0, Jr. 7.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg
No. Name 2009-10 Stats
2 Natasha Vital, G, 5-8, Sr. 10.0 ppg, 2.2 apg
21 Alexis Gray-Lawson, G, 5-8, Sr. 13.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg
10 Lauren Greif, G, 5-10, Sr. 4.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg
11 DeNesha Stallworth, F, 6-3, Fr. 13.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg
33 Talia Caldwell, C, 6-3, Fr. 6.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg
No. Name 2009-10 Stats
23 Zoi Simmons, G, 5-6, Jr. 4.9 ppg, 4.0 apg
5 Kim Mestdagh, G/F, 5-10, So. 19.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg
2 Bonnie Barbee, G, 5-8, Jr. 13.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg
10 Natalie van den Adel, G, 6-1, So. 6.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg
11 Meghan Heimstra, F, 6-2, So. 10.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg
2009-10 Category TAMU SIU CAL CSU
Overall Record 4-0 0-4 3-2 5-2
Conference Record 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0
Points Per Game 91.5 62.8 73.2 66.9
Scoring Margin +31.0 -16.5 +11.8 +7.9
Rebounds Per Game 39.5 37.5 42.4 42.0
Rebounding Margin +3.0 -2.2 +6.0 +3.0
Field Goal Percentage 53.5 38.0 40.8 39.9
Field Goal% Defense 33.2 45.7 39.1 35.1
Three-Point FG% 53.8 29.9 28.2 40.1
Free Throw Percentage 71.9 67.9 70.8 65.6
Turnovers Per Game 17.5 21.8 18.4 18.4
Assists Per Game 22.0 12.3 12.0 14.3
Blocks Per Game 6.5 3.3 2.2 2.1
Steals Per Game 11.3 6.0 11.6 7.9
INSIDE THE SERIES
Texas A&M has not faced all three teams in the Colliers International Classic tournament field since the late 70’s and early 80’s. Southern Illinois and California lead 1-0 in the all-time series with the Aggies, while A&M holds a 1-0 advantage versus Colorado State. SIU last defeated A&M, 70-64, at the Southwest Missouri State Tournament held on Nov. 24, 1978 in Springfield, Mo. Meanwhile, the Aggies lost 84-55 on the road at Cal on Jan. 4, 1982 under former head coach Cherri Rapp in Berkeley, Calif. A&M went 0-3 in that particular three-game Bay Area swing falling also to Stanford and San Francisco. The Aggies’ first and only meeting with Colorado State was a 65-54 road victory on Dec. 15, 1978 in Fort Collins, Colo.
THE BLAIR 200
Head coach Gary Blair will coach his 200th game from the Texas A&M sidelines against Southern Illinois on Saturday. His 100th career game in Aggieland was a 70-52 victory over North Texas on Dec. 18, 2006. Blair holds the distinction of being one of only five coaches in NCAA women’s basketball history to take three different teams to the NCAA Tournament and is one of only two coaches to take three different teams to the Sweet 16. He is 22 wins shy of becoming the winningest women’s basketball coach in school history in career victories (133). Former head coach Lynn Hickey compiled 154 career wins in 10 seasons with the Aggies from 1984-94. Blair, in just his seventh season, is the winningest coach in school history by percentage (.668).
FROM THE SIDELINES
• Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair has never faced Southern Illinois or California in his 25 years as a Division I head coach. He is 1-0 lifetime against Colorado State. This is the sixth time a Blair-led squad will play in the Bay Area, where he is an undefeated 5-0 with his teams including wins over Stanford, Kansas and Duke while the head coach at Arkansas from 1993-03 and versus San Francisco while an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech from 1980-85.
• The Aggies and Bears were both seeded in the Trenton Regional in the 2009 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship bracket. Texas A&M was the No. 2 seed for the second consecutive season, while the Bears received a No. 4 seed. The Aggies fell to sixth-seeded Arizona State (84-69) in the regional semifinals, while the Bears lost to top-seeded and eventual national champion Connecticut (77-53). Five games from now, A&M will face Arizona State in a Sweet 16 rematch at the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic on Dec. 19 in Las Vegas.
• Both Texas A&M and Cal have signed back-to-back top 10 recruiting classes over the last two years. This year’s Aggie freshmen along with preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Danielle Adams were rated the sixth-best recruiting class in the country in 2008-09, followed up by the fifth-best recruiting class in 2009-10 with the highest-ever rated player in school history in 6-foot-4 center Karla Gilbert out of A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, Texas, and 5-foot-9 guard Kristen Grant out of Lamar High School in Arlington, Texas. Cal had the No. 1 recruiting class a year ago. The Bears will travel to College Station next season for a marquee non-conference matchup at Reed Arena.
Texas A&M 106, Stephen F. Austin 56
• For the fourth time this season, Texas A&M used the starting five of Sydney Colson, Tyra White, Tanisha Smith, Adaora Elonu and Damitria Buchanan (4-0).
• The Aggies scored 106 points against Stephen F. Austin to mark the 11th time ever to reach the 100-point plateau in a single game in the 36-year history of the program. It was the third-most points scored in school history behind the Reed Arena record of 109 points versus McNeese State on Nov. 21, 2006 and school-record points of 111 versus Lamar on Nov. 15, 1995.
• With the victory, A&M picked up only its fifth all-time win in the 18-game series with SFA. The Aggies have now five of the last six meetings between the two schools.
• Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair improved his career record to an undefeated 5-0 against his former school.
• Tanisha Smith scored 16 of her career-high 30 points in the first half of play. It was the most points scored by an Aggie in the Gary Blair Era surpassing 29 points by former great Morenike Atunrase versus Kansas on Jan. 15, 2006 and 29 points by all-time leading scorer Takia Starks against Texas Tech on Feb. 17, 2008. Smith became only the 15th player in school history on the 28th all-time occasion to reach 30-or-more points in a ballgame.
• A&M scored 57 points in the first half, the second-most points scored in a first half behind 61 first-half points against UT Pan American on Nov. 27, 1999. It was also the most points scored by the Aggies in the first half this season and first 50-point half since 50 first-half points versus Texas State on Dec. 13, 2008.
• Tyra White tied her previous career-high with 15 points in the first half alone. By game’s end, she reset her career best with a 17-point outburst against Stephen F. Austin.
• Sydney Carter had a near perfect game from the floor going 3-for-5 from the field, 2-for-2 from the three-point line and a team season-high 8-for-8 (1.000) from the charity stripe. She ended the night with 16 points one short of tying her career high in the category.
• Adaora Elonu brought down a career-high 10 rebounds, her first double-digit board game of her career.
AGGIE NOTABLE QUOTABLES
“Southern Illinois has a rich tradition and the state of Illinois produces a lot of great players. We will worry about Texas A&M on Saturday. We hope we have enough talent to overcome a team that hasn’t won a ballgame yet. If we can do what we are supposed to do, it will give me the opportunity to rest some kids to get them ready for the most likely scenario of playing California on Sunday. But, you can’t underestimate Colorado State. They’ve always had a good program and their new coach has turned their program around quickly. I’m not looking for the upset. I’m looking to play a ranked team. This is what helps us in the RPI and gets us ready for the Big 12 and the NCAA Tournament. California has probably been the most consistent team in the country in recruiting over the last three years. Coach (Joanne) Boyle has done a great job. They have a team that is very similar to us as far as athleticism. They are very strong with freshmen post players, they have a potential All-American in Alexis Gray-Lawson and they are playing at home. Anytime you have a chance to play a ranked team, you have to do what’s best for your program and your conference. This would be a huge win for us, if we can pull it off. We will have to tighten our rotation if we can get that far this weekend.” – Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair on the Colliers International Classic tournament field
“We know it’s going to be tough and it’s not going to be easy for us this weekend. We have to work hard and be prepared for what is coming. We know a lot of the teams, especially California, will be competitive. We just have to be ready. For Cal, their point guard, Alexis Gray-Lawson compares to (former A&M point guard) Aqua Franklin. Their post play is going to be a key factor. We have to rebound, get on the boards and know where their shooters are at all times. Other than that, we have to play hard, do what we normally do and mainly have fun out there.” – Freshman forward/guard Cierra Windham on traveling to the Colliers International Classic this weekend
“It’s always great to go back home. You always feel comfortable, but at the same time, you wish you could be closer, but the atmosphere is a benefit. I’ll still be able to see my parents and also some family and friends who live in the Bay Area who will come out and support our team this weekend.” - Southern California native Cierra Windham on returning home to the Golden State
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 Haas Pavilion alongside color analyst and former player A’Quonesia Franklin on KZNE 1150 AM. A live audio feed will also be available on www.AggieAthletics.com.