COLLEGE STATION-Texas A&M got back on the winning track with an impressive 82-53 win over the Ole Miss Rebels at Reed Arena in front 5,804 fans on Thursday night.
Junior Kelsey Bone's career night on the boards highlighted the A&M win, Bone collected a career high 17 rebounds to go along with her 24 points, her 13th double-double on the season. Bone's 17 rebounds ties for the most in an SEC game this season. The last time an A&M player had 17 or more rebounds was Yolanda Brown against SMU on Feb. 24, 1993 with 18 boards.
"Bone didn't have a lot of size against her tonight, but she was really going to the boards hard particularly in the second half and getting some easy looks," Head Coach Gary Blair said after the game. "Being strong enough to just take the ball away from them a couple of times got her some easy baskets."
The A&M (21-6, 11-2 SEC) win over Ole Miss (9-17, 2-11) moves them into a tie for second place in the SEC standings, with the idle Kentucky Wildcats (23-3, 11-2).
The maroon and white opened the game scoring 12 of the first 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four assists, before the first media timeout. A&M's defense forced four early turnovers by the Rebels leading to four points for the Aggies. Bone scored six of A&M's points before the first media timeout.
Freshman Courtney Walker and Bone had a connection early in the game with Walker assisting on the each of Bone's first four field goals. The team play was contagious with the Aggies assisting on 13 of their 19 field goals in the first half.
"You look at Walker in the ball game and say that we really didn't notice her," Blair added after the game. "But eight points, five assists, no turnovers, and four out of nine shooting thats not a bad night at all."
Following the first media timeout, the Aggies used a 17-5 run over 5:20 to put some distance between the two teams. Seven Aggies registered scored in the run that helped the Aggies build an 18 point lead.
The Aggies went into the break leading 40-28 behind 22-for-42 shooting from the field. The Aggie defense was stifling at times forcing 12 Rebel turnovers leading to 12 Aggie points.
After the break, the Rebels outscored the Aggies 8-3 during a two minute stretch, but the home team responded with 14-2 run over five minutes of action to take a then game-high 22 point lead.
Late in the second half the Aggies used a 18-7 run to take a game-high 33 point lead before the Rebels scored the final four points of the game to finish the scoring at 82-53 in the maroon and white's favor.
On the night the Aggies dominated the paint with a 50-28 points in the paint advantage over the shorter Ole Miss squad and out-rebounding the Rebels by 12 on the night. The Aggies scored their fifth most points in a game this season off a season-high 37 made field goals, assisting on 22 of them.
Joining Bone in double figures was senior Adrienne Pratcher with 13 points along with a career high six rebounds. Freshman Courtney Williams scored 11 and senior Kristi Bellock finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Junior Kristen Grant played a season high nine minutes, setting a career high with four assists and tying her career high with four rebounds.
Ole Miss was paced by Valencia McFarland's 11 points and four assists. McFarland was the only Rebel in double figure scoring.
The Aggies will take to the road for the next two contests; beginning at Vanderbilt on Sunday afternoon, televised on ESPN2 at 4:00 pm. Then A&M will travel once again to the state of Tennessee for a match-up with the Lady Vols next Thursday on CSS at 6:00 p.m.
Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
"I thought our team was ready to play tonight. It's hard to put that Kentucky game to bed. We took off Tuesday, worked out Wednesday. We had to watch an hour and fifteen minutes of that Kentucky tape, and we didn't watch Mississippi tape until shoot-a-round today. But we felt like we had to worry about us instead of who we were playing, so we had to correct a lot of mistakes that were made. We did some nice things in the ballgame. I thought we shared the ball very well; you can tell by the assist/turnover ratio. It was still about five more turnovers than I would like, but when you play 13 players that's what's going to happen because you're giving everybody a chance. And there's not going to be a whole lot of chances to be able to play that many kids every night. I would love to, but this isn't little league. You've got to realize kids have got to earn their opportunities, but two kid's names that never come up; look how well Kristen Grant and Chelsea Jennings played in the ball game. Grant had four assists, she was moving hard, she missed her shots, but Jennings gave me two blocks from behind. Between the two of them, five assists and only one turnover. They are learning to do things and enjoy the possession instead of thinking I have to shoot all the time. But that gives us a whole lot of hope for the future because they know who is in front of them, and there is some pretty good kids. But how many teams in the SEC or the Big 12 can bring a Jennings or a Grant off the bench and play as well as they did. Bone didn't have a lot of size against her tonight, and she was able to free will, but she was really going to the boards hard, particularly in the second half and getting some easy looks, and being strong enough to just take the ball away from them a couple of times got her a couple easy baskets. I thought the point guard play was good as usual. Pratcher didn't get but one assist, but she was solid, when all of a sudden you can get 13 points and six rebounds and two steals. She had another great game. I'm happy for my team, but now the work begins now. Vanderbilt gave us all we wanted here [at Reed Arena]. You remember, we were down at half here. We're going, we're going to play on the stage and you know how hard that is going to be for me with as many hand signals and gyrations that I do on the bench. But no matter what happens, on Saturday night, I'm going to go to Blue Bird Café and enjoy some good Country Western music after I watch game film."
On Kelsey Bone's inside play
"Well we simplified the offense; particularly, we started running our traditional high-low offense. We were getting good looks inside; they were not caving in early. We started running what we call our weave overload sets, and basically everything was bread and butter. But we had so much transition offense in the first half, we didn't need to set up a whole lot. Then when they went to a zone, we did a decent job, but then when you start playing so many people all of a sudden it's a twelve point lead instead of a 20 point lead at halftime, but I'm going to play my kids who work. They are on scholarship. If I have a large roster, I'm going to play them, and second half, my bench played very well. I just enjoyed coaching that game a little more than I did Monday night."
On getting past the Kentucky game
"The old one game mentality. You're the only ones I've talked to about Vanderbilt, but our assistants haven't even started breaking it down yet. We wanted to make sure we had this game right because we didn't need to slop around. We needed to play hard, get some kids some minutes; but the minutes you play, play hard. You look at Walker in the ball game and say, we really didn't notice her. Eight points, five assist, no turnovers, and four out of nine. Not a bad night, but we just expect great things out of her every time. And if I would have played her a few more minutes I probably would have gotten her 'Freshman of the Week' again, but that's not what we're about; the individual accolades. We're about getting our team ready to go to that next level. When people are going to play us zones, she's better in our man-to-man offense and our transition offense."
On coaching on end line at Vanderbilt
"We're going to work on that tomorrow in practice. I'm going to go down under the basket. I'm going to have the cards out; [Assistant Coach] Amy Wright will hold those cards up, so when they leave me to go the other way, the last time I was there I had to go to the top of the key to get a technical one time. That's just part of it. The best thing about going to Nashville is it's good food, it's a good city. I like to relax and go hear some good country music on Saturday night after I have done all my work. And then you usually hear the best National Anthems you've ever heard, anytime because they have their choice of who they want to bring in. But this is a huge game for Vanderbilt because even after us they still have some tough games left."
Texas A&M Freshman Guard Peyton Little
On shots tonight and transitioning into better performance
"We were running transition and Jordan had a great pass to me. I just have to learn not to think when I am shooting and just let it fly. It was a great pass from Jordan and I was pretty glad it fell. I know I just have to stop thinking when I am shooting and just let it come to me. I have hit some shots during the season. I feel like I am a pretty good shooter. I just have to learn to play and let the game come to me."
Texas A&M Junior Forward Kelsey Bone
On using her size against Ole Miss
"Coach Blair came to practice yesterday and he said, 'We are going back to our bread-and-butter. We are getting the ball inside. That's what won us a national championship. Why stop doing it now?' We struggled a little bit against Kentucky. I turned the ball over a lot. I was tentative. I struggled with how people were playing me. Tonight, he just told me 'Go for it and let the game come to you,' and that's what we did."
On if going inside was about Ole Miss' size
"I think it was more about us. Our coaches have been preaching to us about understanding the bigger picture. Coach Starkey was very emphatic in saying 'We are not focused on who we are playing tonight. We are focused on us.' Ole Miss is a great team. Their program is going through a few things right now but we didn't want to come out and give them any confidence. We kind of did that a little bit. A couple of times we gave them confidence in this game. We let that happen but we snuffed it out very quickly. For us, we were more focused on taking care of Texas A&M, as opposed to focusing on Ole Miss."
On difference in performance by starters and non-starters
"It's just everybody understanding that their name could be called at any time. There are games when you know our bench is going to play. We know that and I think sometimes our teammates have to understand that there should be no drop off. We are a top-10 team now. There should be no drop off from 1-13. It is just a part of the growing process as a team. When you see things like this happening, we go back and watch film and we critique the game. We break it down and we understand that everybody has to be prepared on every night because anything could happen."
On ball-sharing among all players
"I think that is going to happen because a lot of attention is catered to me. I know that in order for our team to be successful, I have to score but I also have to find open people. If people are going to decide to leave my teammates open, I have to get them the ball and they have to be ready to knock down those shots. Luckily enough for us, lately those shots have been made and they've understood. There was a little lull in the season where we didn't understand how teams were playing because there were so many people and a lot of different ways that teams were playing. Now, Coach Blair has done a really good job of preparing us to know that. In practice we work on double- and triple-teams coming from everywhere so that when it happens in the game there are no surprises."
On upcoming games
"When you start talking about the final three games, they are not easy games. We are talking about tournament teams that we are getting ready to face three games in a row. We just have to focus on what we are doing. The rest of it will take care of itself. We need our confidence at an all-time high. The best part of the game tonight, for me, was Peyton knocking down her shots. We are going to need that down the stretch. When people are able to come in and do their jobs, do what is expected of them and play very well, it is really exciting."
On obtaining big leads early in games
"We like when we have big leads because we like when everybody can get involved in the game. We feel like when we are sitting on the bench, we are doing something right. We kind of get off on those big leads early in the game so I think it's just a matter of the next five having that mentality of 'Let's get a bigger lead.' If we just get a change in mentality, we will be fine."
Ole Miss Head Coach Brett Frank
"I tip my hat to A&M. I thought they continued to play hard and play with passion. We obviously come in as an undersized team, a team that is limited in a lot of regards. That's not to take anything away from Coach Blair and his program. I think he has his kids playing as well as anyone in the country right now. I expect him to make a deep run in the SEC tournament as well as March Madness. I think they are definitely a Final Four-caliber team. They have all the tools and all the pieces that they can compete with anybody nationally. I give a lot of credit to them and to the job they have done here. They have built a very successful program and it's going to be for years to come. Outside of that, as far as Ole Miss is concerned, we will continue to show up each and every day. We will fight. We will play as hard as we can and I think that is a testament to the character and resiliency of our team."
On team performance with turnovers
"It was one of those things where we had 10 really quick turnovers and I think that was partly due to the pressure of the Aggies and partly due to a couple of careless turnovers on our part. I think we are a team that has had problems starting games this year. It's kind of our Achilles' heel. Again, I think we do a good job of bouncing back. It got to about 21 or 22 and we cut it down to about 12 around halftime so I was proud of their effort in that regard. Anytime you are playing a top 10 team in the nation, you can't afford to turn the ball over. You can't afford to have careless turnovers and careless miscues."
On Kelsey Bone
"Kelsey is a phenomenal player in the sense that she has a great size, athleticism and strength. She has a versatility to her game. She is not one-dimensional. She can do more than catch it off the block and bump it off the glass and that's unique in a lot of situations. She has the athleticism of a guard. She can move up and down the court. She has a great fundamental skill set and again, she has the size and the strength to complement it all. I think she is probably, without doubt, the toughest post player we have seen, to date. I know we have a few more to see in conference. I think she is definitely one of the top in the country and a deserving All-SEC-type player as well as a potential All-American."
On dealing with A&M's team size
"That's something that we see on a daily basis. I'm 6'1" and I'm taller than any kid we have on our roster. We come in awfully small but we say "Mental is to physical as four is to one." We have to use our mentality and overcome the size deficiency we have. Tonight, we thought our best chance of doing that was to try to pack it in the middle with the zone. We are not typically a zone team but we made the adjustment and thought it was our best chance to compete tonight. While it may have been, it still wasn't good enough. But it was a great performance and a great team that we faced tonight."
On team's attitude
"In the second half, we did the same thing. We got down another 16 or 18 and came back and cut it to 10. This team has fought all year long. From 10 days before the season began up until tonight, they have had to deal with a lot of adversity. They have had to overcome things that most teams, hopefully, will never have to face. The fact that they bounce back each and every day and continue to work as hard as they do is amazing. We had kids diving for balls with a minute and a half left in the game and we were down by 25. That's just a testament to the character of the kids we have."