On Sun. Jan 5, 2014, the Texas Aggie women’s basketball team officially began their stealth quest to repeat their SEC championship, which they’d captured so deftly last year, with win No. 1 over the Alabama Crimson Tide. Starting for the Aggies was a newly familiar regular lineup of Courtney Williams, Courtney Walker, Jordan Jones, Karla Gilbert, and Achire Ade. Alabama had prepared well thanks to head coach Kristy Curry and their 7-7 record was centered on losses to solid competition in Kentucky, Princeton, Duke and Nebraska.
Even though the Aggies are the reigning SEC champions, Coach Gary Blair noted, “There’s no target on us. The target’s on Kentucky. We’re Texas A&M. This is why we play the schedule that we do. We’ve got an obligation first as a former national champion to play the schedule and grow up as we go.”
Karla Gilbert was on her game early, as the team jumped out to a 9-4 lead. Gilbert’s defense was effective as she used her height to present a real blocking problem for the Alabama team. Achire Ade made her rebounding presence known as well. Ade held her game and Gilbert would come to waver after an initially strong start. It was an Aggie dominated first half which led to a halftime score of 41-31, in favor of the Aggies.
Coach Blair also kept his suit jacket coat on the entire first half of the game. That signaled he was not unhappy with his team’s play, although there were some missed plays that could have been freebies. The Aggies did show lackluster play at times, but they stayed away from costly mistakes in the first half that gave way in the second half as they allowed the Crimson Tide to climb back to within 3 when they’d never been anywhere near that close the first half. Courtney Williams’ shooting kept the Aggies at the advantage throughout the entire game.
The Aggies had managed to give up their 10-point lead, and the Alabama team had pulled to within 3 with 11:34 left to go. Achire Ade made two critical free throws to get the lead back to 7 points, then made an essential layup, which brought the crowd to its feet and make Alabama call a time out. After a failed attempt by the Aggies’ Scott, Ade rebounded the ball, passed, then Karla tried a shot and missed, and Ade rebounded and made the basket to bring it to 58-47. Curtyce Knox added a three-pointer and the crowd was really wild into the game with 7:38 left in the game.
Knox’s 7 points today were complimented by 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Jordan Jones had 4 points, 1 rebound and 4 assists but she also racked up 4 personal fouls, which gave Knox more playing time. Jones has an infectious enthusiasm and the heart of a true competitor, so she should just be getting better as the season continues if she can convert her passion into points and smart plays.
Knox continues to play some impressive basketball as she manages to get defensive rebounds when others around her tower over her. She and Achire Ade were the primary reason for the win today as they “combined for all the points in an 11-0 run that gave the Aggies the lead with 8:08 left in the game.” Ade made her career-best 21 points on hard work and 8 of 8 field goal shooting, which now makes her the “first SEC player to go 8 for 8 this season.” Achire also chalked up her third career double-double, with 12 rebounds and 5 of 6 free throw shooting.
Courtney Williams’ star continues to shine as she had 23 points and was 6 of 7 on her free throws, and in her spare time managed 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Before today, Williams had made her last 24 free throws, with a streak that started Nov. 29, but going 30 of 31 free throws is every reason to commend.
Karla Gilbert had 10 rebounds and had 8 points but with 4 of 9 shooting, she’s going to have to challenge herself to make every basket count to maintain the Aggies presence inside the pain. Rachel Mitchell had some minutes and it would have been good to see more of her, and certainly more of Jada Terry than 58 seconds allowed at the end of the game. Courtney Walker’s 6 points came in at key times, and even though she was 3-10 this afternoon, don’t count her out, by any means, as a key to the team again this year. Walker’s defensive play may not be reflected in statistics today, but she gave the Alabama team fits out there.
Alabama was well coached, in respectful fashion, by Kristy Curry. They never gave up and their three standout players were junior guard Daisha Simmons with 20 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists; senior guard Shafontaye Myers with 13 points; 6’2” sophomore forward Nikki Hegstetter had 10 points on the day, but she kept the Aggies really wrapped upon the court as they tried to defend her.
Breaking down the Aggies’ weakness, Coach Blair noted,
I think what really hurt us in this game is that we had no transition offense. As you can tell on fast break we had 8 points; I can’t even remember those. We were coming down in transition and turning the ball over or not waiting to fill in the spots. It’s a designed play that you’re trying to do. It’s a fast break until it becomes a secondary break. We were just not doing a good job of handling the ball. Again, we spread out the turnovers. It’s not just one person. And of course, Courtney Williams has got to quit spin reversing so much, but it’s kind of hard right now to tell her to quit creating her shot
because it’s going in.
The Aggies are now 11-4 and 1-0 in the SEC, and pulled in 62.1% shooting the first half and 44% in the second half, for 54% on the day. Three-point shots are not yet to be the Aggies’ secret weapon as they went 33.3% on the day.
The Aggies face LSU on the road on Thurs., Jan. 9, at 6 pm. The game will be televised in selected markets on CST. Coach Blair said of his game plan for LSU:
Right now, our basketball team is 1-0. We’re fixing to go into perhaps the hottest team in the lead‐LSU. We played very well at their place. We’re going to go overthere. We’re going to get some good seafood, and hopefully we can get a ‘W’ and get out of there.
The next home game will be Thurs., Jan. 16 as No. 13 South Carolina comes to town.