COLLEGE STATION, TX-Texas A&M fell to LSU at home Sunday afternoon in front of 7,678 fans by a score of 67-52.
Junior Kelsey Bone led the Aggies with 13 points and corralled seven rebounds. Freshman Courtney Williams chipped in 11 points to round out the double-digit scorers for A&M.
Texas A&M falls to 21-9 overall and 11-5 in conference for a fourth place tie with South Carolina. The Aggies will be the fourth seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament. LSU improved to 19-10 overall and 10-6 in league play securing sixth place.
The Aggies opened the scoring with a Courtney Williams jumper and held 8-2 advantage at the first media timeout, the home side was 4-for-7 to start versus 1-of-6 shooting for the Lady Tigers. A&M tallied assists on three of the first four baskets of the game.
The A&M defense continued to stifle the Lady Tigers holding without a field goal for 3:21 while the Aggies scored six points to increase the A&M lead to nine points.
A&M put some distance between the two teams with a 14-4 run to increase the lead to a game-high 13 points. Senior Adrienne Pratcher, freshman Jordan Jones and Bone each had four points in the run.
LSU rebounded by scoring nine straight points to cut the A&M lead to just 24-20 at the break. Pratcher led the Aggies with six points in the first 20 minutes. A quartet of maroon and white tallied four points in the first half; Williams, Bone, Jones and senior Kristi Bellock.
After the break, LSU went on a 16-5 run to take at 36-29 lead, the first lead for the visitors in the game. The Lady Tigers were 6-for-9 from to start the second half.
"When we are behind and obviously we've been behind the last three ball games, we do not play with a sense of urgency at all." Blair said. "It made me look like a yell leader over there trying to pump our kids up to put pressure to perhaps where we could force a turnover and get back in the game since we were shooting the ball so poorly."
The home team chipped away at the lead cutting the Tiger lead to as little as one with 11:30 to play. Williams had seven points to help the Aggies get back into the game. A&M tied the game up a couple possessions later.
LSU responded with a 13-2 run over four minutes to push the lead out to 11 with fewer than six minutes to play that the Aggies could not overcome.
"We had a great game plan going into this game, and we were going to be in transition," Blair added after the game. "We were going to run, and we were going to do everything, but it's hard to be in transition when you're always taking the ball out of the net. And that's what happened to us."
Despite the early shooting woes the Tigers responded to shoot 51% from the floor in the game including 61.5% in the second half. The Aggies did not make a three-pointer for only the third time this season. A&M pulled down 17 offensive rebounds, but were only able to score 10 second chance points.
Freshman Courtney Walker nearly had an unconventional double-double with nine rebounds and seven assists to go along with her six points.
LSU was led by Theresa Plaisance's 16 points, Danielle Ballard recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Bianca Lutley added 14 and Adrienne Webb had 11 to round out the double-digit scorers for the Tigers.
The Aggies will take the court next in Duluth, Ga. at the Gwinnett Arena and will play the winner of the game between South Carolina and Game 1 winner at 1:30 p.m. (CT) Friday on Fox Sports.
Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
"I've got a lot of reasons why we didn't play well. Outside shot in the first half; we couldn't hit it. But we still had a 22 to 11 lead because we were forcing turnovers and the only way we were scoring was in transition. Wings, I told them to start driving in because your outside shot is not going and see if you can get to the glass. Williams did a couple of times in the second half. Rebounds, how about this for a great stat, we outrebound them by three and we do not get a single rebound at the 3 position with three players or at the 1 position with two players. And we're supposed to be defensive rebounding with five people. Bone taking fade-a-ways, we're realizing they are just going to wall them up. Youngblood and McKinney were just doing a good job of just being physical, just like everybody else that we play they are not as large as we are, but are more athletic. They just wall up dead behind and Kelsey in the second half made a couple of good shots, but she shoots an open jumper on a 1-on-4 fast break, and then misses a couple of other things, but it is a chain effect; we were all missing. Walker goes 1 for 8, but does a few other things well because she always rebounds and she passes the ball very well, and she's very unselfish. But then her defense lacked like every one of my perimeter players on defense. They couldn't keep Ballard, or Lutley, or Kenney from getting into the paint. And they were just beating us; when we would cut them off, they were talented enough to have an up-and-under move, and sometimes we just let them go after that move and stopped, and that's when I took Pratcher out. She just let Webb miss the shot, get the rebound, and put the shot back up. When we're behind, and obviously we've been behind the last three ball games, we do not play with a sense of urgency at all. The other day when I saw the Texas men come from 22 down with 7 to go, they played with a little bit of pride and urgency, and it looked like they had worked on it in practice. It made me look like a yell leader over there trying to pump our kids up to put pressure to perhaps where we could force a turnover and get back in the game since we were shooting the ball so poorly. If we would have been able to force enough turnovers, perhaps we would have gotten back in the ball game. I thought when we finally got clicking in the second half, we were hitting baskets and had cut it to 2, I'm sure we had even tied it at one time; but then we had no stops. They were coming right back down and scoring on us in an easier fashion than we scored on them. And so all of a sudden, instead of having that crowd carry us on, they made their offensive run, and they shot 60% in the second half. The couple of plays, like one time Williams and Bellock didn't need to switch on a screen, and they switched, then Plaisance hits a three. We got an inbounds play with two seconds to go (on the shot clock) and my point guard knows to get off and double the only person who can score on a lob play in Plaisance, but no, we don't do it, and she scores. Pratcher comes back to the bench. Ballard is a very strong freshman, and will be on the All-Freshmen team because I'll be voting for her, 11 rebounds, just a one-on-one game, she's the big physical type of guard that you've got to have in the SEC, and she's going to be a very good player. And I thought their coaching staff did a very good job preparing for us. You saw the looks we had in the first half were we could have stretched it and perhaps built up that lead to 15 or so, and we just couldn't hit the shots. So when you shoot 33% and your 5 player goes 6 for 19, and not a single starter shoots 50%, you've got problems. I told (LSU Head Coach) Nikki (Caldwell) as we were leaving the floor, right now, you've got a lot better team than I've got because y'all are playing with a purpose. You're playing with 8 people, you're short-handed, and everybody is doing their job. I think I've got better players; I think she's doing a better job right now at coaching than I'm doing. So has my team hit the wall? I think my team just played three very good teams. Am I excited about being the number 4 seed, absolutely not, but I'm more disgusted at losing three straight games, particularly the last one on our home court in front of a great crowd. Now I apologized to those fans that I should have coached better, but by gosh, we had a great game plan going into this game, and we were going to be in transition, and we were going to run, and we were going to do everything, but it's hard to be in transition when you're always taking the ball out of the net. And that's what happened to us."
On improving defense
"When we got behind, I was wanting to switch to a zone, but when you switch to a zone, you play a "I hope they miss" defense because our zone is not very good. And then you're not forcing any turnover to get into transition. I guess I should have tried it five minutes into the second half, and I didn't do it because we were scoring at the time, and then all of a sudden the game got out of hand. What can we do individually? I don't know how much harder we can work them; practices are good, nobody is giving up on their selves, the coaches haven't given up on them. Sometimes it's following the game plan, not allowing kids to get to the middle of the paint. I thought early on we were hedging screens perfectly, forcing them into bad shots and getting the rebound and starting out on the break. They adjusted their offense, and their kids started saying what was going to work for them was playing one-on-one basketball off the pick-and-roll. We looked like we were in the light weight division and we were playing the heavy weights, and that's what it looked like to me. We were just not physically not able to stay with them on one-on-one situations."
On Danielle Ballard's play
"She plays the game like a linebacker. She's very physical, and I don't have anybody who can guard her in a one-on-one situation unless we can deny the ball back to her and use our speed, which we have got to learn in practice to play more game situations, to play behind with a sense of urgency."
Senior Forward Kristi Bellock
On pressure while shooting
"We definitely wanted to get some shots up to see if we could make them. I think we were forcing some shots just because we had not scored in a while. That's something we have to get better on. We have to continue to get better in practice so we don't get behind in games and we won't have to fight as hard to come back because we are not as good of a team when we are behind."
On LSU's defense
"Their zone is very active and aggressive. Kelsey and I were not hitting our shots tonight. Both of us had bad games. It happens sometimes but I hope it doesn't happen again. They are a very active team and we just have to get better offensively."
Senior Guard Adrienne Pratcher
On offensive troubles
"Offensively, we were scoring early because they were turning the ball over and we were getting the ball in transition and scoring. They went on a run and we only scored two points going into halftime. There's no way we can win a game if we can't finish against the zone. There was something in our execution that just wasn't there tonight."
On A&M's defense
"Our defense was not there tonight. One of the keys before the game was no paint touches for them. They got way too many paint touches in the second half and that's how they were able to make their runs. We weren't scoring on the offensive end either, so it was not helping. Paint touches lead to offensive boards, free throws and layups, so LSU got way too many of those."
On what focus is now for team
"One of the main points we have talked about all season is that we need to become better at practicing. I think we will be able to accomplish coming from behind and finishing games if we become a consistent practice team. We still have some of our season left. We have the SEC tournament coming up. Even though it was senior night, the seniors are still going to be around for NCAA first and second rounds, so hopefully our fans can come out and support us there. Maybe some will even come to Duluth to watch us in the SEC tournament because we are definitely going to make a run."
Senior Forward/Guard Cierra Windham
On senior perspective
"I think it is definitely hard being a senior and losing on senior night. You could definitely tell that the crowd was as frustrated as much as we were. They wanted us to go out with a win as much as we did, as well. Just watching was difficult because you obviously want to win. Being with these two girls, we came in together as freshmen and we want to leave our legacy in the right way, so it was hard for us to go out like that."
LSU Head Coach Nikki Caldwell
"A different team came to play from the last time that we played A&M. I was very proud of our team's effort to not fold in the first half. That made a difference for us when we started to play our game and got ourselves back into the game. I have to credit our post-game for containing a quality player in Kelsey Bone. This is definitely a team win for us. I'm proud of our kids for coming into this tough environment and playing the way we've been playing and playing the way we're capable of playing."
On what the team learned from this matchup earlier in the season:
"The first time we played, I thought we had to play too much of our man and we overextended. Kelsey Bone just went to work in the second half and we couldn't guard her."
On the halftime adjustments:
"We had some good looks in the first half. We talked about really focusing our offensive execution to attack the paint. We talked about establishing our paint points. They were doing a great job slowing down our guard play. When we did hit a three, it became contagious. It started with our defensive pressure. I felt like defensively we did a much better job in the second half. We did a much better job on the boards as well."
On the rivalry between Texas A&M and LSU:"Texas A&M is a great institution. Having our fans be able to drive over will hopefully give this rivalry a life. We're looking forward to many more great basketball games against a great team. We were able to see them earlier this year. We felt like we were in the game up in the last four minutes. Then they really stepped their game up another notch. This is going to be a great rivalry for both LSU and Texas A&M."