COLLEGE STATION, Texas- No. 14 Texas A&M had its largest comeback victory since 2003, storming back from 16 down to defeat Georgia 78-73 in overtime at Reed Arena.
Texas A&M (19-6, 9-2 SEC) overcame a 27-11 deficit with 3:29 left in the first half to eventually win the ballgame. The Aggies had not come back from a deficit that large since a 21-point rally against Seton Hall on November 29, 2003, Gary Blair’s first season as the head coach of Texas A&M.
Georgia (16-8, 4-7 SEC) came out of the gates with a 19-4 run, putting the Aggies in a deep hole early in the game. The Lady Bulldogs led 29-17 at halftime, after Courtney Walker hit the last two shots of the first frame.
Texas A&M was able to close the deficit to single digits early in the second half, then went on a 15-0 to briefly take a 38-35 lead that lasted all of 11 seconds before Tiara Griffin tied the game for Georgia with 10:17 remaining. The Aggies would not lead again until overtime.
The Aggies found their backs against the wall again with 1:26 left in regulation, down 62-56 after a Krista Donald jumper. Walker, who scored a game-high 25 points, hit two free throws on the ensuing possession to cut the lead to four.
Jordan Jones forced Georgia into two turnovers on their next possessions, drawing a charge and forcing Georgia to dribble out of bounds. Both of those turnovers turned into A&M points, with Jones tying the score at 62 with 24.0 to play.
Courtney Williams had 13 points, and a good chance to end the game in regulation, but her buzzer-beating 3-point attempt rimmed out to send the game to the extra frame.
Williams hit a jumper with 35.1 to play that gave A&M a 74-72 lead in an overtime that featured two ties and three lead changes. The Aggies held Georgia to just a single free throw in the final 35.1 seconds to seal the wild victory.
Five Aggies reached double figures in scoring, with Karla Gilbert (12), Jones (11) and Tori Scott (11) joining the Courtneys – Williams and Walker, in double figures. Four Texas A&M players reached double figures in the team’s last outing against LSU (Feb. 9).
Texas A&M shot just 24.0% in the first half, but increased their percentage by 40.3% in the second half to shoot 64.3%. In contrast, Georgia shot 36.4% in the second half.
The Aggies take the court again on Feb. 16 at Alabama with tip set for 12 p.m. on FSN. The Aggies return home on Feb. 23 to host Kentucky on ESPN2 at 1 p.m.
NOTES: Texas A&M has guaranteed that it will not play on the first day of the SEC Tournament, Mar. 5. The bottom four seeds in the SEC play on the first day … The Aggies are 2-0 in overtime games this season … The Aggies are 12-1 at home this season and 29-1 against unranked teams at home since the start of the 2011-12 season … The Aggies need one more win to clinch their 14th 20-win season and the 23rd of Gary Blair’s career
Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
“Folks, I thought we were lucky to only be down twelve at half. I’m tired of starting ball games at home like we’ve done against Tennessee, LSU and now Georgia. We’re better than that. We’re ready to play. We’ve got the game plan down. It doesn’t matter what the other team does. But we miss the easy shots early, and then we start settling for shots. Give our kids credit. I had to take them out of the man to man defense because they were just beating us with back door plays, playing awfully well offensively in the first half. [Georgia player] Hempe was really hurting us- she’s a good player. We went to ‘hope they miss defense’; ‘H.T.M. defense is our 2-3 zone. They proceeded to miss. They missed for about the first five or six minutes of the second half, then they started hitting. I think we forced them into playing too much one and one ball at the end. And it helped them sometimes, particularly when Barbee made that 3-point shot…she made the and-1.
“I loved my fight on the team. They let me get after them pretty good at half, and that’s what you have to do. Sometimes I’ve either got to be calmer on the bench or I’ve got to be harsher to get their attention.”
On the protecting the home floor…
“I thought it would have been devastating if we would have lost and continued to play the second half like we did the first half, and you would’ve given every team in the conference the chance to say “Hey, they’re not as good as what their record shows. Well we found a way to win a ball game and not be at our best. That’s what I’m happy for. I’m happy for our kids. I’m happy they had that Aggie Spirit in them. I’m happy for our crowd. Our crowd helped make a difference. “
On their zone…
“It was all us. They just packed it in. We continued to throw it to them or throw it out of bounds. It wasn’t anything [Georgia] was doing. Our girls were open and we continued to throw it away, but we slowed it down. Sixteen turnovers for the game-we can live with that. We played hard.”
Texas A&M Guard Courtney Walker
On the first half pace…
“We could have played better defense in the first half, but we’ll break it down and look at exactly what we weren’t doing that was supposed to be a part of our game plan.”
On the reason for pace-change…
“I think we just started getting our offense going. We need to pick up our defense either way, but I think that we were more active in the zone. I think we did a lot better this game.”
On second-half come-back efforts…
“I think it was very good that we stayed together. Georgia didn’t start off well, but they’ve been playing well lately. I think we need to come out better, but when we got down, I think we regrouped ourselves and stayed together. I’m just glad we stayed together as a team and was able to get the come back.”
Texas A&M Forward Courtney Williams
On the slow start
“We came out expecting to beat them. Every time A&M has played Georgia the past three times we blew them out, and the last two times were at their house and we took them for granted.”
On knowing if they had a run in them
“I knew that we had a run in us coming out of halftime, we didn’t want to lose at home and we want to win another SEC Championship, either in the tournament or the conference championship or both. I feel like we had them on the run especially when we started to get stops and got our offense going. We had 17 points in the first half, there is no explanation for that and we had 45 in the second half. I feel like when we get our offense going we get more confidence and got more stops. We just had to finish the possession out with a rebound and we couldn’t seem to do that sometimes.”
On not being on your A-game
“Heart and effort. Coach Starkey told us that they were playing harder then us at our house and we didn’t want them to play harder than us at our house. We want to win a SEC Championship and really it was just heart and effort and getting on the boards. It takes heart and effort, defense takes heart and effort and once we do that the offense will take care of itself.”
Georgia Head Coach Andy Landers
Final analysis of what you think ended up costing you the game
Turnovers, turnovers out in the middle of the floor that lead to quick baskets and layups.
On A&M making a run coming out of half
“I didn’t think they would quit but I didn’t think we would turn it over that much either. The turnovers really hurt, we missed four layups the first half, driving lay ups that make the game different and we turned the ball over. We were up 10, 12, 14 and in three seconds they are scoring two points. We did that four or five times the second half, I didn’t expect that. So there goes your lead but other than that we played well. We defended them well in the half court but fouled them too much and put them on the free throw line.”
On Courtney Walker
“Courtney Walker did a nice job from a scouting stand point, we have a lot of respect for her.”