No. 2 Texas A&M Advances in NCAA Tournament
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Jordan Nixon scored nine points over the final six minutes, and No. 2 seed Texas A&M escaped an upset bid by No. 15 Troy with an 84-80 victory in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Monday.
Destiny Pitts made four free throws over the final 6 seconds, giving the Aggies the last cushion they needed to avoid what would have ranked among the biggest surprises in tournament history.
No 15 seed has ever beaten a No. 2. The Trojans, who rallied to take the lead in the fourth quarter, came oh-so-close to the tournament’s most startling win since No. 16 seed Harvard topped No. 1 Stanford in 1998.
Texas A&M coach Gary Blair was at that game 23 years ago with his former Arkansas team and had to sweat out this one as his Aggies barely escaped. Aaliyah Wilson’s layup with 1:12 to play gave Texas A&M a 79-77 lead that would hold up.
Pitts’ poise at the line proved critical when the Aggies fouled Troy’s Janiah Sandifer on a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left and she made two free throws. Pitts then made two more foul shots with 2.6 seconds left for the final margin.
The Trojans certainly had their chances to make history. But Nixon saved the Aggies time and again, scoring all of her fourth-quarter points after Troy had taken a 71-69 lead. She also snagged a rebound on a late 3-pointer and covered a loose ball that led to Pitts’ first pair of free throws.
Nixon finished with 21 points. Ciera Johnson had 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Aggies (24-2).
Alexus Dye scored 26 for Troy (22-6), but fouled out with 31 seconds to play. Felmas Koranga had 20 points.
After a 49-point first half, Texas A&M scored just 16 points in the third quarter as the game tightened up behind Troy’s fast, aggressive and pressing defense. Tiyah Johnson hit a long 3-pointer from the left wing and had the Trojans within eight. The Aggies looked to be gasping for breath while the Trojans were cruising.
Troy started the final period with a 6-0 run. A 3-pointer from Sandifer tied it at 69 and the Trojans took their first lead on basket from Johnson with just under six minutes to play. The Trojans made seven of their first eight shots of the quarter.
Nixon took over in crunch time, trading baskets and free throws with Troy, mixing strong drives to the basket and baseline jumpers that steadied, and rescued, the Texas A&M offense.
LONG RANGE WOES
Troy’s best chances for an upset faded with woeful shooting on 3-pointers. The Trojans were 4 of 23 from long range. Otherwise, they outrebounded Texas A&M 48-42, grabbing 18 offensive boards and turning them into 21 second-chance points.
Texas A&M advances to the second round against No. 7 Iowa State, which beat No. 10 Michigan State 79-75.
RECORDS & SERIES NOTES
· With the win, A&M climbs to 24-2 overall and will advance to the second round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament
· Troy falls to 22-6 following its first-round exit.
· The Maroon & White came away with the victory in the first-ever meeting between Texas A&M and Troy in women’s basketball.
· Texas A&M now maintains a 28-15 NCAA Tournament record and is 14-3 in opening round games.
· A&M and Troy traded baskets early on in the first period, but a 7-0 run headlined by a Jordan Nixon 3-point basket at the 2:57 mark of the opening period.
· The second half concluded with a successful trip to the free-throw line by Alexis Morris, as the Maroon & White took a 49-35 lead into the break.
· The Aggies 49-point first half marks the highest scoring half for Texas A&M since scoring 64 against Northwestern State earlier this season.
· Ciera Johnson dropped seven points in the third quarter and helped the Maroon & White reach its biggest lead of 16 points.
· A&M won the turnover battle 18-11 and capitalized more efficiently on those opportunities, outscoring Troy by a 23-12 margin in points off turnovers.
· Texas A&M shot at a 40% clip behind the 3-point arc, converting 4-of-10 attempts.
· On the opposite end of the court, the Aggies perimeter defense held Troy to a 17% mark from deep.
· The Aggies have held a lead of 10 points or more in 23 of the 26 games played this year.
· Texas A&M opened its first-round matchup with a starting lineup of Aaliyah Wilson, Jordan Nixon, Kayla Wells, N’dea Jones and Ciera Johnson.
· This is the Aggies 26th consecutive game operating with this starting lineup.
· Jordan Nixon paved the way for A&M’s victory, booking a career-high 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting with a 50% mark behind the 3-point line.
· In her 32 minutes of play, Nixon drew four charges and finished with a game-high plus-18 plus/minus.
· Nixon logged double digit points for the 12th time this season and 13th time in her career. The New York native is on a seven-game double-digit scoring streak.
· Ciera Johnson dominated down low, logging her fourth double-double of the season and 22nd of her career.
· The Duncanville, Texas, native finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds in 29 minutes on the floor.
· Johnson has scored in double digits 18 times this season and 66 times in her career.
· The Aggies powerful post presence has hauled in 10-or-more rebounds in seven games this season and 24 times in her career.
· Aaliyah Wilson finished with an all-around career night, logging 12 points and tying her career high in assists (six) and steals (six).
· Wilson has scored in double figures in 20 games this year and 39 in her career.
· The Muskogee, Oklahoma, native last achieved her career highs in both assists and steals against Ole Miss on February 21 of this year.
· N’dea Jones booked her trademark double-double against the Trojans, finishing with 11 points and 12 rebounds, while taking a critical charge in the fourth quarter. This was Jones’ 16th double-double this season and 42nd of her career.
· The Lawrenceville, Georgia, native has scored in double digits 18 times this year and 47 times in her career.
· Gary Blair sees his overall career record as a head coach improve to 837-332 with a 429-169 mark since joining the Texas A&M program.
· In the NCAA Tournament, Blair improves to 40-24 all-time with a 20-2 mark in the first round.
The No. 2-seed Texas A&M women’s basketball team will face off in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament second round against the No. 7-seed Iowa State Cyclones on Wednesday, March 24th. Tip time and location are to be determined.
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