COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Ciera Johnson had 24 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 6 Texas A&M overwhelmed Little Rock 78-35 on Tuesday night in the season opener for both teams.
The Aggies shot 48 percent (31 of 65) from the field compared to 28 percent (16 of 57) for the Trojans.
SEC preseason player of the year Chennedy Carter had 10 points at the half and finished with 16 on 7-of-17 shooting for the Aggies.
Kyra Collier led the Trojans with 13 points and was the only Little Rock player to reach double digits.
The Trojans leaped to a short-lived 9-4 lead before the Aggies stirred. Texas A&M led 44-18 at the break thanks mainly to overpowering Little Rock inside.
The Aggies outscored the Trojans 30-4 in the paint in the first half, with Johnson making 9-of-10 shots from the field in the first 20 minutes. Texas A&M is the only Sweet 16 team from the NCAA Tournament last season that returned all of its starters.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are known for their star guard Carter, but this 43-point victory showed they have plenty of other players who can put points on the board.
Little Rock: The lopsided loss won't hurt a team that started two freshmen.
The Aggies host the USA National Team on Thursday night in an exhibition game.
The Trojans, in search of their first victory, stay on the road at Rice on Saturday afternoon.
The Aggies averaged 32.4 points in the paint last season and scored 30 in the first half alone against Little Rock.
A&M only allowed the Trojans to score 35 points in the game, the fewest points allowed in the series.
The Aggies moved to 10-2 all-time against Little Rock, 6-0 in College Station.
Texas A&M used the starting lineup of Chennedy Carter, Shambria Washington, Kayla Wells, N’dea Jones and Ciera Johnson.
Ciera Johnson put up 18 points in the first half, matching the Little Rock team total. She finished with a career-high 24 points and added 13 rebounds.
Johnson notched double-digit field goals for the first time in her career with 11 in the victory.
This was the second time in her career Johnson has scored 20-plus points, first doing so at Florida last season.
Chennedy Carter scored in double figures for the 40th consecutive game with 16 points against the Trojans. She also added five rebounds and a near-career-high six assists.
N’Dea Jones rounded out the double-digit scorer for A&M recording her 12th career game in double figures with 13 points, sinking a career-best nine free throws on 10 attempts.
The Aggies will to host the US Olympic Team on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. The game will air on SEC Network Plus, available online through cable and ESPN subscriptions.
Head Coach Gary Blair
“I’d like to give a lot of credit to Coach Starkey, because defensively he did a tremendous job of not allowing them to get the ball inside in the paint. In the paint we were 52-8, but remember that I’m more interested in the ‘eight’ because that’s all they got. We forced them into taking shots that they didn’t want. We worked as hard on that to get ready for Little Rock as we did to get ready for Mississippi State or South Carolina. Give Coach Starkey a lot of credit. He had their attention. When they opened up the second half, they 4-for-8 to open up. He got on them a little bit, and we shut them down the rest of the way.
“I thought we were focused. We knew what we wanted to do. I’m proud of the fans that were here; I’m embarrassed of the fans that were not here. We’re the highest ranked team at Texas A&M right now that’s currently playing, and I think we deserve a little bit more. We’re going to play the US Olympic team, that at least eight out of 12 of those will be on the Olympic team in Tokyo. If you’re not going to come out to see the sixth ranked team, then at least come out to support the Olympians. The Red, White and Blue, they deserve every bit of it… I just hope people come out to see the future gold medal team.”
On the team’s efficiency…
“It’s the efficiency, we started moving the ball around and I started calling some of my sets that they executed very well. In the second half we were running the same thing and we just couldn’t hit the shots. I’d take every single one of those shots, but we were efficient tonight. We got to work on a few things and tighten up that press a little. It will be hard to press USA. We will be fading back on defense.”
Junior Center Ciera Johnson
On her changes for this season…
“This year I was trying to get a little more comfortable, and my confidence is a lot better. You get used to playing against your team and practice players, so this year I am a lot more comfortable and the girls are looking to me a lot more.”
On the guards helping her performance…
“They did their job. They passed it to me and all I had to do was shoot a layup. They basically did all the work, all I had to do was post up and shoot a layup.”
Junior Guard Chennedy Carter
On Kayla Wells’ performance…
“She did her job tonight. Kayla took what the defense was giving her, she had a big game against them last time so of course they’re going to close in on them a little bit more. What people didn’t realize is that she shut down their best player. She guarded them the whole game.”
On playing the US Women’s National Team…
“I’m excited. I’ll keep it short and sweet. We’re going to play hard and we’re going to compete. I think it will be a good game. It’ll be a measuring stick for us. I think our team is ready. We’re embracing the moment and we’re going to continue to play hard and win regardless of who is in front of us.”