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A&M Extends Win Streak, Defeats USC

December 15, 2012
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Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
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(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)
LOS ANGELES - Kristi Bellock posted the first double-double of her career as Texas A&M won its sixth consecutive game with a 79-61 victory over USC today at the Galen Center.

The senior forward tallied a career-high 15 points and also tied her career high with 10 rebounds to help the Aggies overcome a slow start and finish with a strong second half. Kelsey Bone tied for team-high honors with 15 points and Courtney Walker also reached double figures with 14 points as the Aggies improved to 6-3.

"Bellock and Walker kept us in the ballgame in the first half," A&M head coach Gary Blaire said.  "I thought they did an exceptional job. They played hard and they played smart. Usually they are the ones not invited to the press room. It is usually the leading scorer, but sometimes what you got to do is figure out who are the little cogs in the wheel that are getting this thing started."

The Aggies missed their first five shot attempts and spotted USC its largest lead at 5-0 to start the game. A&M eventually overcame its bout of cold shooting and rebounding as a 3-pointer by Tori Scott gave the Aggies their first lead at 22-21 with 6:28 remaining in the first half. Scott, who had tied her career high with seven points in A&M's previous outing, posted eight points in the first half.

The Aggies settled in and started making their shots, outshooting the Trojans, 35.5 percent to 28.6 percent in the half. Bellock scored the last four points of the half as she finished with a team-leading nine points en route to a 33-30 A&M lead heading into the break. Bellock also led the team with seven rebounds in the first half, although the Trojans had a significant 27-20 lead in total team rebounds.

"We were too impatient on our offense," Blair said about the team's first-half play. "Basically what hurt us was their rebounding in the first half. They were up seven on us at half. My 2, 3 and 1 players had two rebounds between the three of them. You've got to help the post players in there. We had to make some adjustments, which we did at the half."

A&M came out on fire in the second half, shooting 57.1 percent from the field over the last 20 minutes. The Aggies built their first double-digit lead of the game as Adrienne Pratcher connected on a jumper in the paint to give A&M a 46-35 lead with 14:02 remaining in the game.

"Pratcher came back and played a very good second half," Blair said. "That first 10 minutes was how she played last year against USC when she scored 22 points. The first half she was non-existent. The second half she did a great job for us."

A&M, which forced USC into 15 turnovers in the second half and outscored the Trojans 31-16 on points off turnovers for the game, continued to widen the gap, with Karla Gilbert going in for the layup to give the Aggies their largest lead at 71-46 with 6:48 remaining. Blair nearly cleared his bench late in the game and USC made a run to cut the margin to 17 points at 78-61 with only 15 seconds left on the clock.

"We were lucky that they were not very good on transition defense," Blair said. "It gave us a lot of easy baskets in the second half. Bone finally settled down and played a little bit smarter. I was proud of everything except for that last five or six minutes when I tried to empty my bench, and we didn't handle it very well. I want kids to play, but they need to learn to value a possession. If they want playing time, learn to value a possession.

"We are going to take the win. Any win on the road is a beautiful win."

Cassie Harberts had 19 points and 8 rebounds to lead USC, which finished with 44-38 edge in rebounding. The Trojans fall to 3-5 and suffer their fourth consecutive loss.

Texas A&M continues its four-game road swing as the Aggies participate in the World Vision Classic, Dec. 19-21 in Las Vegas. A&M will play three games at the six-team tournament, including the opener against former Big 12 opponent Kansas State Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at Cox Pavilion.

Other teams participating in the tournament are Notre Dame, Old Dominion, UNLV and Alabama A&M.

"Now we get to go play a real smart Kansas State team, but what we are going to have to do is realize that our post players have to learn how to play within a crowd and we have to take the open shot that is given to us and then do a better job of rebounding the ball," Blair concluded.

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