Franklin's 27 help Texas A&M clinch Big 12's top seed

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M coach Gary Blair had no trouble putting the biggest game of the year in the hands of his smallest player.

On Wednesday night, 5-foot-3 point guard A'Quonesia Franklin made four free throws in the final minute and scored a career-high 27 points to lead No. 14 Texas A&M to a 67-60 win over Texas to earn a share of the Big 12 Conference title.

"She's the Little Engine That Could," Blair said, referring to the famed children's book. "She just keeps finding a way. She might be the most underrated point guard in the country and she's got the biggest heart."

Texas A&M (23-5, 13-3) needed Baylor (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 16 AP) to beat Oklahoma (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) to win the conference title outright, but the Sooners cruised to an 88-61 win. Still, it marks the first time in school history the Aggies have won a conference title.

Brittainey Raven scored a career high 19 points and Tiffany Jackson added 19 for Texas.

The Aggies led 61-58 before Texas was forced to foul Franklin, who made both free throws with 33.5 seconds left.

"A'Qua is not the person you want to foul, but that was about the only chance we had," Longhorns coach Jody Conradt said.

Jackson's 3-point attempt at the other end bounced off the rim and Texas (17-13, 6-10) fouled Franklin again with 19 seconds remaining.

At that point the crowd rose to its feet and began chanting, "Big 12 champs, Big 12 champs."

Franklin responded by hitting two more free throws to put the game out of reach.

"It means a lot to everybody," Franklin said of the title. "There were a lot of doubters out there. We just worked hard to prove to them that we are a good team. We're a great team. The sky's the limit for us."

Conradt remained one victory away from joining Tennessee's Pat Summitt as the only coaches -- men's or women's -- with 900 wins.

The Aggies led by seven before four quick points by Texas, capped by a fastbreak layup by Erneisha Bailey, pulled the Longhorns to 61-58 with 1:48 remaining. Texas never led in the second half, but got within one point once and hung around until Texas A&M put the game away in the final seconds.

Franklin left the game with 3.8 seconds left to a standing ovation and gave Blair a bear hug before taking her seat on the bench.

"That was special," Blair said while patting the championship trophy. "I build teams around point guards. They've got to take coaching and know everyone's position and they can't make excuses."

After the game, the Aggies remained on the court, donned championship hats and T-shirts and were presented with the Big 12 championship trophy. The crowd stood cheering as a banner proclaiming the Aggies title was unfurled.

Franklin, who was not highly recruited in high school, was finally offered a scholarship to A&M late in the year and accepted. She said after the game that she reflected on her path from high school to the Big 12 title.

"It really hadn't dawned on me until now," she said. "It's just amazing.

The win is the Aggies 18th straight at home and gives Texas A&M a 16-0 record at Reed Arena this season to mark the first undefeated home record in school history.

A free throw by Jackson capped five straight points for the Longhorns and cut A&M's lead to 51-50 with 8:26 remaining. But the Aggies quickly answered when Franklin hit a 3 just seconds later.

A layup by Raven got Texas within 2, but it was again Franklin who kept the Aggies ahead when she made a 3 to stretch the lead to 57-52. A pair of free throws by Jackson got Texas within 3 but La Toya Micheaux made a layup to make it 59-54.

"A&M played great defense and they knew a lot of things that we were going to do and they knew what our strengths were and they took them away," Jackson said.

Conradt was proud of Jackson's effort in the senior's last regular-season game as a Longhorn.

"It was an all-around good game for Tiff," Conradt said. "I know what this means for her and I know how much she wanted to win this game and how much she wants to succeed."

Takia Starks added 18 points and Micheaux scored 11 and had 10 rebounds for Texas A&M.

The Aggies earned the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 tournament since they swept both Oklahoma and Baylor in conference play.

The Aggies led by as many as eight points in the first half and were ahead 34-29 at halftime.