8:00 PM ET, February 20, 2008
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Gary Blair, the normally talkative Texas A&M coach, was at a loss for words after getting his 500th career victory on Wednesday night."I don't know what to say," he said. "Right now, I'm just a little speechless."Danielle Gant scored 22 points to lead Texas A&M (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) to a 60-46 victory over Iowa State for the milestone victory.The Aggies have won six of seven leading up to Saturday's meeting with rival Texas.Texas A&M (19-7, 7-5 Big 12) took a commanding lead midway through the first half and led by double-digits through most of the game.Iowa State cut the lead to 10 points on a layup by Heather Ezell with about nine minutes left. A&M went on an 8-2 run sparked by a pair of 3-pointers by Morenike Atunrase to push the lead to 54-38 with less than five minutes to go and Iowa State wouldn't threaten again.The Cyclones (16-9, 5-7) were coming off an upset of then-No. 15 Oklahoma State and meet ninth-ranked Baylor Saturday.The win makes Blair, who is in his fifth season at Texas A&M, the 36th Division I women's coach to reach 500 wins. Blair's overall record is 500-220 and the victory is his 92nd with the Aggies."We knew how important it was for him to get this win and we just wanted to come out and get that win for him," Gant said.Before taking over in College Station, Blair spent 10 years at Arkansas where he was 198-120. His first head coaching job was at Stephen F. Austin, where he was 210-43 in eight seasons.His teams have finished with a losing record just once in his 22 seasons as a head coach."I feel great because we've got seven wins in conference and that's all it is," he said. "This one was very important because we need nine conference wins to get to the NCAA tournament."After the game, the 62-year-old Blair was honored with a video tribute featuring well-wishes from almost a dozen current and former women's basketball coaches, including LSU coach Van Chancellor."You've been so good for women's basketball," he said. "Your passion for our game is unbelievable."Several joked about his verbose nature in the video, including Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly."Five-hundred wins and 500,000 stories," he said with a laugh.An emotional Blair fought back tears as he talked about how much the greetings from fellow coaches meant to him."This is what makes it, your colleagues standing up and having some fun with you but being serious about it," he said. "This is why none of us coaches ever want to retire, because we would lose friends that we have in the profession. It gets really lonely ... and you better have someone you can call."Blair was also presented with a framed jersey with a 500 on it and his team gave him a game ball.The Aggies led by 17 points with about 17 minutes left before Iowa State got consecutive 3-pointers from Ezell and Kelsey Bolte to cut the lead to 38-27. Gant hit a jump shot for Texas A&M before Iowa State scored four quick points to cut the lead to single digits for the first time since midway through the first half.Texas A&M scored the next four points to stretch its lead back to 44-31 with about 12 minutes left.Ezell led Iowa State with 14 points and Alison Lacey had 11.The Cyclones were ahead 5-4 early before the Aggies scored 26 of the next 30 points to take a 30-9 lead about three minutes before halftime. Sydney Colson made two 3-pointers in that span for the Aggies. The Cyclones went on a 10-4 run to close out the half and cut A&M's lead to 34-19 at halftime."There's still a lot to play for," Fennelly said. "I'm really proud of our effort. There's not many teams in the country that lost two starters to ACL injuries and are still competing."The Cyclones shot poorly in the first half and didn't get a single offensive rebound before the half. They finished with six offensive rebounds."I've never seen a team have zero offensive rebounds in a half," Blair said. "I think that was a key to the game."Texas A&M had a season-low four turnovers while Iowa State had 12.
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||16-42 (.381)||25-59 (.424)|
|3P Made-Attempted||6-16 (.375)||4-16 (.250)|
|FT Made-Attempted||8-8 (1.000)||6-7 (.857)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||10 (0/0)||10 (0/0)|