LOS ANGELES -- Danielle Gant helped Texas A&M avoid another first-round upset to Lone Star state rival.
Gant scored 20 of her career-high 24 points in the second half and had 14 rebounds to help the fourth-seeded Aggies beat 13th seed Texas Arlington 58-50 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday. Texas A&M faces George Washington in the second round.Last year the sixth-seeded Aggies lost to 11th-seeded TCU in the tournament's first round.Gant went 8-for-10 from the field and 8-for-11 from the line."I think the key today was Danielle Gant," Texas A&M's Patrice Reado said. "She stepped up her defense and her offense."It was Gant's third career 20-point game and her seventh double-double.Texas A&M trailed for most of the first half and was down by two at halftime, but Gant scored the first eight points of the second half to put A&M up 32-26, a lead the Aggies (25-6) wouldn't give up. Gant scored her team's first 13 points of the second half."I was on shorter guards so that gave me an advantage," said Gant, a 5-foot-11 sophomore guard. "I just know when they're playing behind me that I can take advantage of that and shoot over them."Terra Wallace had 18 points and Ashley Bobb had 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Mavericks (24-9), who had a 19-game winning streak snapped and lost for the first time since December.Takia Starks added 10 points for Texas A&M and made a jumper with 2:09 that gave the Aggies a 53-43."They came out really intense in the second half," Texas Arlington's Tojjinay Thompson said. "We didn't know how strong they were going to come out, and they came out a little stronger than us."It is the first time since 1994 that the Aggies have advanced past the first round."It's been a long time for this program at Texas A&M," Aggies coach Gary Blair said. "Everybody says we play an ugly style of basketball at times, but we find a way to win and that's what you saw."The two Texas schools, which hadn't met since 2002, are just a three-hour drive apart and are in the tournament's Dallas Regional, but played 1,400 miles away at Southern California's Galen Center.Arlington was just 14-for-65 (21.5 percent), and has lost in the first round in both of their tournament appearances. The first was in 2005. Texas A&M went 22-for-47 for 46.8 percent.The Mavericks outrebounded the Aggies 45-32.After Gant's surge to open the second half, Texas Arlington went on an 8-0 run and held A&M without a field goal for more than 4 minutes to retake the lead. The Aggies answered with a 7-0 run that included five points from Gant to go up 39-34 with 11:56 to play.Texas Arlington would pull within one after a three-point play by Wallace and a free throw from Tiffany Riles, but would get no closer.The Aggies made their first four field goals of the game and blocked two shots in the opening minutes and the Mavericks looked undersized and overmatched, but Arlington stuck with Texas A&M, taking the lead 16-14 after a Maryann Abanobi layup with an assist from Wallace.The Mavericks later had a pair of offensive rebounds that led to a reverse layup from Wallace and their biggest lead 23-18, with 4:40 to play in the half.A'Quonesia Franklin made a jumper with four seconds left to pull the Aggies within two at halftime.