Aggies Hold Off Wildcats, 54-44
Nov. 25, 2008
TUCSON, Ariz. - A youthful Arizona squad gave #5-ranked Texas A&M all it could handle in the McKale Center on Tuesday evening, but a late turnover foiled the upset plans as the Aggies held on for a 54-44 win in nonconference play.
An impressive 3-1 start to the season for the Cats was put to the test as they faced a team that reached the Elite Eight last season and has won the past two Big 12 Conference Tournament titles.
Despite shooting just 21.7% (5-for-23) in the first half, the Wildcats made 13-of-14 free throws and limited the Aggies to just 12-of-34 shooting (35.5%) and forced 11 turnovers to make for a competitive first half.
Trailing by just three points at the half, the Wildcats lost their focus for a three minute stretch of the second half that proved costly.
Courtney Clements scored her first career bucket at the 16:23 mark to keep the Wildcats within four at 33-29 at the 16:23 mark, but a talented Aggie team upped its play and built a comfortable lead.
All-American Takia Starks hit a pair of jumpers around a field goal by Damitria Buchanan from the left elbow before Danielle Gant converted a turnover into a bucket for a quick 8-0 spurt over 3:02 that made it 41-29 for the visitors.
The lead grew to 13 with 8:18 to play and still stood at 48-37 after a driving lay-up by Gant with 6:11 remaining before the Wildcats made one final charge. Amina Njonkou hit 1-of-2 free throws, then swiped the ball from Buchanan that set up a putback by Ify Ibekwe to make it 48-40 at the 5:09 mark.
The Arizona defense grew tougher as the crowd raised its volume, sparking Ashley Frazier to a driving layup before Ibekwe blocked a shot by La Toya Micheaux and Reiko Thomas hit a baseline jumper to make it 48-44 with 2:25 to go.
A timeout did little to slow the Wildcats as they forced Sydney Colson into a missed shot that was grabbed by Njonkou. However, a turnover on the next possession gave the Aggies the break they needed. Gant converted a short jumper in the lane and effectively ended the charge for the Wildcats.
Carter and Gant hit pairs of free throws in the final minute after McDonald, Frazier and Thomas all had looks at the basket that missed the mark and forced Arizona into fouling.
Free throws kept the Wildcats in the game all night as their offense struggled against the high-pressure Aggie defense. Despite shooting a season-low 24.5 percent and making just 12 field goals, Arizona converted 20-of-23 free throws. However, that total was not enough to make up for 22 turnovers and a 48-35 rebounding deficit.
Thomas was the only Wildcat in double figures, tallying 10 points to go along with four rebounds. Njonkou had 9 points and a team-high 10 rebounds while McDonald also added 9 points.
Gant recorded the only double-double of the night, tallying 12 points and 10 rebounds for Texas A&M (4-0) while going the distance. Starks was limited to 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting while also adding 7 rebounds.
Arizona (3-2) begins a brief two-game road trip on Friday, November 28 with a visit to Middle Tennessee State with tip-off in Murfreesboro scheduled for 7:00 p.m. (CST)