COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Jennifer O'Neill had 17 points and Linnae Harper scored 16 on Sunday to lead No. 15 Kentucky to its fifth 20-win season in a row in an 83-74 victory over No. 16 Texas A&M.
Kentucky (20-7, 8-6 SEC) led the entire second half but needed an 8-2 run at the end of the game to secure the win.
After the Aggies (21-7, 11-3) closed within 75-72 on Karla Gilbert's putback with 2:34 left, they missed their last five field goals while the Wildcats pulled away.
The loss drops A&M into a second-place tie with No. 10 Tennessee, and No. 4 South Carolina clinches at least a share of the SEC regular-season title.
Samarie Walker had 14 rebounds and DeNesha Stallworth had 11 points and 12 rebounds for Kentucky.
Courtney Walker tied her career high with 26 points and had 10 rebounds for A&M. Courtney Williams added 16 points.
· Today’s attendance was 7,343, the highest at Reed Arena this season and the 12th-largest crowd all time at Reed Arena for a women’s game.
o Seven of the 26 largest crowds in Reed Arena for women’s games have come during the SEC-era (2012-13 & 2013-14).
· Courtney Walker tied her career-high with 26 points
o It was her seventh 20+ point scoring game of the season and the 11th of her career
o Her 17 first half points were a career-high for a half
o She has reached double figures in scoring for five straight games
· The Aggies are now 12-2 at home this season
· Texas A&M has won 14 of their last 17 games
Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
“First half, they played a whole lot harder than us and killed us on the boards. When I went to my bench, my bench couldn’t remember the offense they we were running and kept leaving us in a whole. Walker kept us in the ball game the first half. We weren’t getting anything out of any other player on the court. They shot layup after layup after layup and were getting to the whole with ease against our man to man defense. Why I didn’t switch to a zone? I don’t know. We were playing behind, and we had to force turnovers, but we didn’t do it. Second half, I thought we competed a lot better.”
“What we’ve got to do is just do a better job. I’m disappointed. I thought our team was finally ready for a moment type game. I thought every time we fought our way back in, [Kentucky] made some key shots, [Kentucky] was more ready to play.”
“I’m the head coach. Throw the errors at me. I’ve got to do a better job at coaching. We worked hard for this ball game. We worked hard to set ourselves up to have a chance to win this thing. Now what we’ve got to do is throw this game aside, learn from it, try to win our last two, get to the SEC Tournament and hopefully get hot and hopefully get smarter.”
On second half-fouls…
“They played very smart. They moved the ball from side to side. When it came down to it, they knew how to attack. A zone defense gave us problems in the second half. When we were running man-to-man, we got in the lead. He switched to a zone; I didn’t.”
On Thursday’s last home game, Senior Day…
“We’re playing Arkansas. It better mean something. We lost on Senior Day last year to LSU. It should never ever happen on Senior Day. You honor those seniors. We will honor those seniors that played last year that didn’t come up with a win. They will be heavy in our hearts, along with Cristina, Karla and Kristen who are our seniors this year.”
“What we’ve got do is not win games, but get better when we’re playing games. Make the good decisions. We had a lot of good things happen in this game just like Kentucky did. But at the same time, you’ve got to finish it out. When you’re at home, you’re supposed to win. We needed to bring it home.”
Texas A&M Player Courtney Walker
On Kentucky’s 2-3 zone …
“They were just a little bit faster out of it. They rebounded well out of it.”
On her shooting…
“I feel like some of my shots in the second half were more wide open than the first half.”
On pursuing the championship title…
We had them on their heels, getting enough separation.
Texas A&M Player Jordan Jones
On reasons for loss…
“I feel like we did settle a little bit too much. Give credit to Kentucky though, because Karla has been scoring 20 points for the last three or four games. They really did a good job of taking her away and double teaming her inside the post so we weren’t able through the ball as much as we would have liked to. At the end of the day, it just comes to guards penetrating and making shots inside the lane. Kentucky was quick enough and fast enough to take away the paint from us which forced us to settle. They did their scouting, knowing we’re not a team that likes to shoot that many threes. They got us to settle doing that. Luckily Courtney was making shots in the first half to keep us in the game. Unfortunately, they weren’t falling for anybody in the second half.”
On Kentucky’s offense…
“I feel they did a very good job of attacking us when we were on our heels. It all ultimately started with us taking care of the ball on the offensive end which we didn’t do too well.”
“Ultimately when we had our opportunities, we just couldn’t come up with stops. They just kept on building their lead from our mistakes. We just have to buckle down and get stops in crucial moments like those.”
Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
“I am really proud of our players, they played a heck of a game today against a really good A&M team. They are so tough, well coached and a really good team. I am proud of our players for bouncing back from a real disappointment Thursday night. They worked extremely hard to get better Friday and Saturday and it paid off with a huge win here today.”
On 2-3 zone and defending A&M…
“Being able to play with some confidence on offense like we did today and really making a commitment to play great defense. The players worked really hard on the 2-3 zone. We had not played a lot of that and they worked really hard on it for the past two days and it paid off for us today. The way the games our going for us, teams seem to be getting into a rhythm so I thought we would let the players have a different look and give a different look. A&M really shot the ball great from three today, which is not really their strong suit on how they get it done. We just tried to make it tough for them to get points in the paint and that was a tremendous victory for us to have more points in the paint than they had. Really proud of our players, we haven’t played a lot of 2-3 zone all year and the players really did a great job with it.”
Kentucky Player DeNesha Stallworth
On A&M making runs…
“The big emphasis was sticking together when adversity hits and to not let that get to us on those runs. We just stuck together, we had our poise, ran our plays and had confidence throughout the game.””
On keeping A&M off the boards…
“There were three spots that coach put an emphasis on in practice and that was the top of the key and the two blocks. We knew if we secured that area that the rebounds will come to us. We just boxed out and secured those sections and got the rebound.”
Kentucky Player Linnae Harper
On coming into the road game and performing so well…
“I think it was my confidence, bouncing back from a loss and coming on the road, I think it was important for us to come together and play as a team. Doing the little things and grabbing all the rebounds and having poise. When everyone on the team brings energy, it helps us on offense and defense as well as transition on getting buckets and steals.”
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