COLLEGE STATION--Courtney Walker matched a career high with 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting to lead No. 16 Texas A&M to a hard-fought 60-52 win over Vanderbilt Thursday evening before 4,643 fans at Reed Arena.
The Aggies (17-5, 7-1 SEC) shot 71 percent in the second half en route to their 11th straight home win and fifth in a row overall, maintaining hold on to a tie for second place in the league standings with idle Kentucky. The Commodores, meanwhile, fell to 14-7 and 4-4.
The visitors held a 39-38 lead with just under 12 minutes to play in the game before A&M made its move. Trailing 39-38, the Aggies went on a 10-0 run-bookended by an Adrienne Pratcher three-pointer and a Pratcher three-point play-to take their largest lead of the game with about 9 minutes to play.
"We made some adjustments at the half," Head Coach Gary Blair said following the game. "We needed a close game; the only difference with this team was that it in every other close game this year we have not been able to win. We did everything well in the second half to win this ballgame."
Vanderbilt slowly chipped away at the deficit, and following a steal and Christina Foggie layup the Commodores pulled within three at 50-47 with 4:48 left in the game.
Once again, Texas A&M would flex its muscle in front of the home crowd. The Aggies put together another 10-0 run-capped by a Peyton Little three with 1:41 left-to ice the game. A&M's defense was key on the stretch, forcing four missed shots and a pair of turnovers to complement the offensive outburst.
"It all started in the first five minutes with our defensive pressure," Blair added. "Walker did a good job of creating plays. We wouldn't have won the game without her."
For only the fourth time this year and the first since late December, Texas A&M found itself trailing heading into the locker room.
Vanderbilt took control early, racing out to an 8-2 lead on the strength of a pair of three pointers. A&M quickly climbed back in the game however, pulling to within two points in what would then become a closely-played half.
The Commodores would extend the lead to as much as seven on a Heather Bowe jumper with 2:25 to go before the A&M defense clamped down. Back-to-back jumpers by Courtney Walker, the final with 70 seconds to play before the break, would pull the Aggies to within three at 27-24 heading into halftime.
Thursday marked A&M's first-ever win over its new SEC foe in the third overall meeting and first between the schools since 1997.
Walker was the only Aggie in double figures, but three others-Kelsey Bone, Kristi Bellock and Pratcher-each poured in eight. Bone narrowly missed yet another double-double with a game-high nine rebounds.
Foggie led Vanderbilt with 17 points on the night, while Tiffany Clarke added 14 and Bowe 10.
Texas A&M will now face a critical two-game road swing, battling LSU in Baton Rouge on Monday night (ESPN2, 8 p.m.) before heading to Columbia to tackle No. 13 South Carolina on Sunday, Feb. 10.
Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
On overall game
"I told our team that this team executes their offense as well as anyone in our league. We were hurting ourselves on the offensive end just making mistakes. They are a very well coached team. We made some adjustments at the half. We needed a close game; the only difference with this team was that it in every other close game this year we have not been able to win. We did everything well in the second half to win this ballgame. We will take the win; we executed better in the second half. It all started in the first five minutes with our defensive pressure. Walker did a good job of creating plays. We wouldn't have won the game without her."
On team without Kelsey Bone playing well
"It has to start with Bellock. She has to realize what is happening and make things happen. We will work on that. I have been pleased with my post players."
On five game streak
"I was just looking to get to 7-1; we cannot lose sight of where Kentucky and Tennessee are if we want a chance to win this thing. I just want to hang around and let the chips fall, as we get better. I'm playing four freshmen with double-digit minutes. I don't think anyone else in conference is, and that's a lot of pressure for them."
Texas A&M Senior Forward Kristi Bellock
On shooting troubles
"We weren't really concentrating enough. We need to work on attacking the rim and getting them into foul trouble. We need to get in the gym and get our shot percentage up and that will help us in the long run."
On halftime adjustments
"They were out working us. We needed to play harder, and have more energy. We just had to put the ball in the hole. We knew we could make those shots we were missing."
On Kelsey Bone
"Kelsey is our leader and go-to player. We feed on her energy. If she doesn't score then we aren't doing our job by getting her the ball. We need to attack the rim more and help her out."
On momentum into LSU
"It's a big game for me because I'm from New Orleans, so I'm really exciting. LSU is a good team and we do have a 5 game winning streak so we want to keep the streak going. We just want to play hard, smart basketball and take it one game at a time."
Texas A&M Freshman Guard Courtney Walker
On changes in second half
"I really just started looking to attack. Either the help went inside to Kelsey and I took the jump shot or it didn't come and I dumped it in to Kelsey."
On momentum into LSU
"LSU is a great team, so we need to take it to them from the get-go. We have two people from Louisiana so we are just ready to go back there and take it to them."