COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Texas A&M coach Gary Blair doesn't believe his Aggies (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) could have played much better than they did
in the first half Saturday against Texas.
The same couldn't be said for the second half.
The Aggies led by 18 points at halftime but squandered most of
that lead in the second half and had to rely on hitting key free throws down
the stretch to fend off a Longhorns rally in a 66-57 win.
Danielle Gant scored 25 points to help Texas A&M (17-6, 5-4 Big
12) to its fourth straight win. The loss is the third in a row for
Texas (15-8, 3-6) and drops its conference road mark to 0-4.
Earnesia Williams led the Longhorns with 12 points, and Brittainey Raven and Ashley Lindsey added 10 apiece.
"In the second half, we came out and we played so sluggish,"
Blair said. "I said, 'Somebody is going to wake up and want this
ballgame pretty soon.' "
Texas A&M led by 14 points with about seven minutes left when
Texas went on a 14-4 run during the next four minutes to make it
After both teams made a pair of free throws, A'Quonesia Franklin, who had nine points and 10 assists for the Aggies, made one of two free throws.
"We did a great job of pressuring on defense," Franklin said.
"We had to get back to the defense we played last year."
Texas' Carla Cortijo then missed a layup on the other end and the Aggies added two more free throws to push their lead to seven with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Williams made a layup for Texas, but the Longhorns were forced to foul again and Sydney Colson made both free throws to seal the win.
It was a sloppy game, with the teams combining for 40 turnovers. The Aggies got an advantage by getting 13 offensive rebounds to five by Texas.
"Rebounding was the key," Blair said. "I thought we did a
good job on that the entire game."
Texas A&M led by 14 points after a shot by Gant with about 11 minutes left. A three-pointer by Kathleen Nash sparked a 7-2 run for the Longhorns that cut the Aggies' lead to 49-38 about midway through the second half. Raven scored four quick points in the run.
The Aggies responded with five straight points capped by a fast-break layup by Takia Starks to push the lead back to 14 points. Starks finished with 13 points.
The Aggies led 41-22 before going almost nine minutes without scoring a basket early in the second half, allowing Texas to close the gap. The Longhorns went on an 8-1 run in that span to get within 42-30. A jump shot by Gant with 12:33 remaining got the Aggies back on the board.
Texas players said a motivational speech by coach Gail Goestenkors about one of her teams once overcoming a 22-point
halftime deficit helped them rebound in the second half.
"At halftime our body language was as if the game was already
over," Raven said. "After her speech we knew we had to come out
and play with heart."
Early on, Texas led 7-4 before consecutive three-pointers by Franklin and Starks put the Aggies ahead. They led 18-12 and then went on a 13-4 run to push the lead to 31-16 about four minutes before halftime. Texas A&M led 39-22 at halftime.
"They had great focus and energy in the first half,"
Goestenkors said. "Their defense in the first half was the best
I've seen them play. It was some of he best defense we've seen in a
Texas A&M, the defending Big 12 champions, have a winning record
in league play for the first time this season after dropping four
of its first five conference games. Blair said that is a testament
to the work ethic of his team.
"People thought we were a fluke," he said. "We're not a
fluke. We're a hard working team. We're not a great team, but at
times we can play great."