Aggies Earn 69-47 First-Round Victory
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Tyra White had started 87 straight games before missing the last three with a foot injury.
On Saturday, the Texas A&M star looked like her old self, scoring 18 points with seven rebounds to lead the defending national champion Aggies to a 69-47 win over Albany in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
She got going early, scoring 12 points in the first half, and added four points and a steal in a decisive second-half run.
The Great Danes had scored six straight points to tie it early in the second half before A&M used a 17-4 run to take a 49-36 lead with about 13 minutes remaining.
Albany had three turnovers and missed three layups in that span. Alexia Standish had two 3-pointers and Sydney Carter hit one during A&M's spurt.
The third-seeded Aggies (23-10) were making their school-record seventh straight tournament appearance and hosting games for the first time since 1994. It was the first NCAA appearance for No. 14 seed Albany, which got an automatic bid by winning the America East tournament.
The Great Danes, who moved to Division I in 1999, won 10 straight games to get into the tournament and hadn't lost since Jan. 28.
Ebone Henry had 14 points and nine rebounds and Julie Forster added eight points and 12 rebounds for Albany (23-10), which won 20 games for the first time since jumping to Division I.
Standish, a freshman, had 12 points - all on 3-pointers - for A&M and Adaora Elonu chipped in 13 points and three steals.
The victory sets up Monday's game with sixth-seeded Arkansas, where Gary Blair coached before coming to A&M. The Razorbacks knocked off Dayton in the first game in College Station on Saturday.
The Great Danes' 24 turnovers were just one off a season high, and the Aggies turned those miscues into 29 points. That scoring helped offset Albany's dominance of the boards, where it outrebounded A&M 48-33.
Albany started 6-foot-8 freshman Megan Craig for just the second time this season in an attempt to deal with Texas A&M's size. She finished with nine points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
The Great Danes didn't look like tournament rookies, leading early and staying with the Aggies for the entire first half. Texas A&M led 30-26 at the break.
• For the 16th time this season, Texas A&M used the starting lineup of Alexia Standish, Sydney Carter, Tyra White, Adaora Elonu and Kelsey Bone…The Aggies are 11-5 with this starting lineup.
• Texas A&M improves to 1-0 in its first meeting with Albany.
• The Aggies move to 16-7 all-time in NCAA postseason play in their ninth all-time appearance. In addition, they have won seven straight NCAA Tournament games.
• A&M is 7-2 all-time in the NCAA First Round and has won six straight first-round games. In addition, the Aggies are 1-0 against the No. 14 seed.
• The Aggies are 9-6 on national TV this season.
• The Aggies are 19-2 when leading at the half.
• Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair is now 14-5 at A&M and 28-16 in his career in NCAA Tournament games.
• A&M snapped a 10-game winning streak for Albany.
• For just the seventh time this season, A&M made five or more 3-point field goals.
• The Aggies outscored the Great Danes 29-14 off turnovers.
• In the second half, A&M shot 55 percent from the floor and held Albany to just 28 percent.
• With three steals, Carter moved into ninth place on the all-time list with 201 steals.
• Elonu set a new A&M individual record for most games played with her 139th contest today.
• White scored in double figures for the 26th time this season, Elonu for the 21st time and Standish for the fifth, including three of the last four games.
• White’s 18 points matched her NCAA Tournament career best and it was her eighth straight postseason game in double figures.
• Elonu’s three steals were an NCAA Tournament career best.
• Karla Gilbert had a season and NCAA Tournament career-best four blocked shots.
• Standish remains hot from beyond the arc shooting 65.4 percent (17-26) over last seven games.
MARCH 17, 2012
FIRST-ROUND POSTGAME NEWS CONFERENCE QUOTES
TEXAS A&M – HEAD COACH GARY BLAIR, SENIOR TYRA WHITE, SENIOR ADAORA ELONU, FRESHMAN ALEXIA STANDISH
First, I thought Albany did a tremendous job. They brought the fight to us; they were the better team in the first half. Minus their turnovers, they probably would’ve been ahead. They outhustled, got loose balls and finished. They’re very good at driving and finishing, and we’re not very good at that. I thought Tyra White’s shot right before halftime gave us a little bit of momentum. We made some adjustments at halftime. We switched to a different zone offense, and it was better. We were able to isolate Standish on the backside. Tyra was pretty good offensively pretty much the whole day. We had to expend a lot more energy than I wanted to this game. Forster plays like Chelsea Poppins at Iowa State, with all that heart. Carter did not have a good game offensively, but if she’s making a mistake on one end, she’s going to get it done correctly on the other end. I thought Carter’s defense on their point guard was very good.
Do you want Alexia Standish in the weight room if she’s shooting like that?
Boyfriend on the baseball team probably needs to be in there too and fix that Tommy John. She’s going to be pressed, she’s been pressed all year, and generally she’s handled it very well. We want her to be able to bring the ball up the court against pressure. I can’t keep wearing Carter down because it takes away from our offense if she has to bring it up all the time. Lexi just has to be a little bit better about it, but that’s all part of being a freshman. As long as she has that gun in her holster and can fill it up, I’ll excuse some of her mistakes. I thought Pratcher was doing a pretty good job in the first half, that’s why I left her in there. The game was starting to get very physical and I needed a more physical presence in the point. Second half we needed execution, and Lexi gave me the execution.
In a lot of these games around the tournament, the lower seeded team has a first half like in both of the games today. What does that say about the tournament and what do you do as the higher seed to stop it from happening?
You play with no fear, you look how Dayton played in the first half, they were up by 15. They were playing so good with execution. Generally what happens in the second half after I saw what happened to Bill Self in the other night with Kansas. Keep it simple stupid. That’s what our offense was supposed to be early. And everybody early was open for a reason and we turned into a jump shooting team against a zone. Get it inside, don’t turn it over when you get it inside, if you do miss, get offensive boards which we were not getting in the first half. I just think they had a great game plan. Sometimes the team that’s favored plays not to lose and they don’t deliver the first blow. That’s what you have to do when you’re the stronger team and supposedly the better team, you have to deliver the first blow, which we didn’t in this game. Albany delivered the first blow in this game, and it gave them confidence. They played with the confidence of their head coach. She’s done an outstanding job with her team. I’m proud of our basketball team. When we’re not our best, we were still able to win by 20. We had some kids step up in the second half.
What was the key to 14-2 run in the second half?
Shot selection, running your offense, scoring deep into your possession. They were playing a real wide zone and they were dropping a guard down to double on Bone. We found it and Kelly Bond made some adjustments to what we were trying to do. We were trying to save a little bit of that zone offense for Arkansas, but I had to use everything we had. The run was good, but was it a defensive run or was it an offensive run? We’re forcing turnovers and converting. I know Adaora made a great steal, Carter made the three. They might not see in their league that much pressure that we can bring on people. Arkansas sees it in their league. We’re going to have to be a lot better half court defensively then expecting our full court press to be effective against Arkansas.
Talk about your impressions with Arkansas this season and the job Tom Collen has done.
I’m happy for Tom. I remember I went to the Final Four at Arkansas in the fifth year in a five-year contract. And this is Tom’s fifth year, and he’ll get a new contract because of this. They play poised, that’s what the SEC is all about, it doesn’t matter what sport that you’re in, they’re very physical. They can bring Williams off the bench to do what she did in the first half and the kid from Georgia in the second half. Those would be starters everywhere else. Ricketts is as good as advertised. Tom has done an excellent job of not letting his team get down. Last year, they lost all the close games. This year they started off 0-3 against three of the best teams in the league and then lost to the bottom team in the league, Mississippi. Most teams would’ve cratered. They won eight in a row, they’re playing well. When they miss it, they go fetch it. We’re going to have to be very smart to play with Arkansas. They’re on house money right now. Obama has picked us to lose. We need to show the nation we’re defending national champions, and no one gives us any credit. We’re not on ESPN, they have Baylor’s 2005 National Championship, they have all the other teams, they’re not expecting much from this basketball team. But if we can roll in here with about 9,000 fans, I’d like to show the country that we’re not last year’s team, we’re this year’s team. And I’m proud of this year’s team.
On Tyra’s work to get back to this point, and her being back in this tournament, not the Big 12.
She was playing well in there and Kelly Bond was telling me foot was starting to hurt, so I got her out of their immediately and we can ice it and get it ready. She’s a gamer; she’s played through pain before. It’s not going to get any worse; it’s not going to get any better until the season is over. Tyra was so instrumental in this game because she can create her own shot better than any of my other starters that are out there. When you have the ability to go up to the elbow and get your shot off. It’s not a set shot, she can create her own shot and that’s special.
With Tyra getting it in her head to step up, will it help her be the go-to person for you in this tournament?
I think so. She did it all last year; she’s going to do it at the next level. She really played a smart ball game. Defensively she got burned a few times, but hey Carter got burned a few times Adaora got burned a lot. We did a pretty good job of hedging screens. We did a pretty good job of letting them take it down into the shot clock. That was their game plan, play a five second offense. Keep it in the hands of their ball handler. A couple times Tyra got stuck on that kid and she did as good as she could because she’s just a good solid player. I like Tyra White, I like her, but we’re going to need her for 40 minutes against Arkansas.
Your team was not able to deliver the first blow, but the crowd was ready. It seemed like your crowd was ready to go but maybe your team wasn’t, how do you explain that?
Jump shooting against a zone, not basket attacking. We make a couple passes then we panic and we say ‘we have to put it up because I’m open.’ Keep working for the good to great shot. And Bone ha got to score and Carla has got to score when they’re in there without putting the ball on the floor against the zone. You have to score in a hurry. And the most important thing to score in a hurry is when you can offensive rebound and get some putbacks and hopefully make a free throw. I could take all you sports writers out there and y’all could probably out shoot us at the free throw line. We’ve got to do a better job.
To run your offense, to get Standish the ball, that’s putting a lot of trust in a freshman and she certainly delivered.
A lot of times in the zone I can put Tyra out in front because she’ taller. I put Carter out front a couple of times and we would get Standish over there in the corner. Bones takes up a lot of people. They’re going to stop Bone first before they stop Standish in the corner. That’s the respect factor that Bone gets. She might not have scored a lot, but she took a lot of people with her and we were able to free up a lot of shooters.
Did you sense anything different at 32-32 from your team?
I sensed we were in a hell of a ball game. I did not want to sit there and have Lehigh come into my gym and win that ball game. Those upsets on the men’s side happened in neutral courts. I was there at Stanford in ’98 when Harvard beat Stanford on Stanford’s court. We watched it. I thought we started to play a little tight. But hey, it’s 40 minutes. We played a great 20 minutes in the second half. But they hit some tough shots in the first half. I mean Henry through it off the glass one time from the corner. I mean come on, she’s pretty good but they were getting the breaks and we were not getting the breaks. When you have that good of a defense and turn the ball over, why can’t you score on offense on the fast break or secondary break? That is something we’ve struggled with all year. We’ve have to be better in transition offense to reward our defense for the job that they’ve done to create the turnover.
FRESHMAN GUARD ALEXIA STANDISH
How physical was that game when they trapped you in the frontcourt and the backcourt? It looked like they let you play a little bit.
It was definitely a very physical game. As a freshman I definitely need to get in the weight room and work on my strength. Going into the tournament, the refs are going to let us play a little more, a little harder, let some fouls slide. For me, I need to be a little more physical to get through traps and break the press.
Talk about your shooting in the game. Did you expect to come out like this?
I missed the first two shots I took in the second half, that might’ve been excitement or being anxious and not focusing on my form. But I came out in the second half a little more calm and ready to shoot the ball with my feet ready. Once I hit one, I kid of felt it and got a little more confident and my shots went in.
When they tied it at 32, it seemed like something switched with you guys and it was time to go on a run.
I think this is just a very defensive motivated team. I think that our defense is what got us back in the game. When we play hard tenacious defense, usually our offense on the offensive end of the court goes well for us as well.
Talk about the boost of having Tyra White back in the lineup.
Yeah it was definitely a boost-- it was a lot of weight off of some of the guards’ shoulders. She’s a great player. With defense, you have to guard her, so that left some of us open for shots.
SENIOR FORWARD ADAORA ELONU
What was the key to the 14-2 run you had early in the second half?
Our defense. I think we just stepped it up with our press. They weren’t able to get it in and if they did, they were rushing it and we were able to capitalize with our steals. And convert. And I think like coach said, I think like Coach said, Kelsey did a good job passing the ball and Tyra did a good job scoring the ball. But what helped us was our defense with our press.
Talk a little bit about the first half. Coach said they kind of took the fight to you. How do you explain the first half?
First half, I think my shots were a little too rushed, and they just came out really hard competing and we didn’t match that intensity that they had. But we should know better to expect that from them. But we didn’t’ match that in the first half, and especially with the run. But I think we came out in the second half with the adjustments our coaches made, especially in our zone offense and we shot a way better percentage in the first half.
Talk about the boost of having Tyra White back
It was a good boost. When she was out in the Big 12 tournament that we played, coach had confidence in the other guards to come in and know she can be relieved and that they can just pick it up right where she left it off. But having her back is good. We all want our teammates back.
SENIOR GUARD TYRA WHITE
Talk about your return from being injured and being able to play in front of a home crowd for the first time in a long time.
It felt good just not to have to pack all the stuff and do all the travel and airport stuff and be able to sleep in our own bed. When we first saw the crowd, it was kind of exciting for us to see all the fans come back and everything like that. It was real exciting to be able to play the first two rounds here in College Station. I know it was exciting for me, pretty sure for my teammates as well.
Talk about coming back from injury and the play you showed out there tonight.
Just not being able to play in Kansas City last week was kind of rough for me. But I knew it was best for me to be able to wait for this tournament. Last week I had a talk with Coach Harris that I needed to step up for the team because I’m kind of a leader. I don’t speak a lot, but I let my game speak for me. I guess I was just kind of anxious to play.