COLLEGE STATION- Texas A&M took over first place in the SEC as the No. 25 Aggies defeated No. 8 South Carolina 67-65 in overtime Thursday evening at Reed Arena.
The Aggies won their seventh straight game and ninth straight home game. A&M, who now is the only unbeaten team in SEC play, owns a victory over two of the four one-loss teams in SEC play.
A&M had four players score in double figures, with Courtney Walker leading the way with 18 points. Courtney Williams added 17, to go along with Jordan Jones' 16 points and Karla Gilbert's 11.
Texas A&M (14-4, 4-0 SEC) went on a 30-6 run during the first half, giving the Aggies a 34-17 lead at intermission. The Aggies’ defense shined again, as South Carolina was the fourth team this season, and second ranked team, to score fewer than 20 points in the first half against the Aggies.
South Carolina (16-2, 4-1 SEC) trailed by as many as 19 points in the first half, but was able to cut Texas A&M's lead to one on several occasions in the second half. After a well-timed steal gave South Carolina the ball with 15 seconds remaining, Tiffany Mitchell banked in a circus-shot 3-pointer to tie the game with 5.1 seconds to play and send the game to overtime tied at 56.
With Texas A&M up 60-58 in overtime, Jones stole the ball from South Carolina, then scored an and-one layup to give A&M a 63-58 lead with 1:27 to play. Walker hit a six-foot jumper on the Aggies' next possession, which kept A&M up by two possessions with 58.8 to play, a deficit that South Carolina was not able to overcome. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer from South Carolina only served as window dressing for the 67-65 final score.
Jones added in seven assists, five rebounds and four steals to her total, helping lead the Aggie offense to a 12-7 advantage on fast break points and a 23-10 margin on points off turnovers.
Williams had nine rebounds, coming one away from her third double double of the season.
With the win, the Aggies win their third straight game against a Top 10 opponent and and are now 3-1 against the AP Top 25 this season.
The Aggies look to maintain their place atop the SEC standings on Sunday, January 19 as they host Mississippi State at 2 p.m. The game marks the return of long-time Texas A&M assistant coach, Vic Schaefer, to Reed Arena as coach of the Bulldogs.
BTW, the Texas A&M basketball teams are a combined 7-0 in SEC action (4-0 women, 3-0 men).— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) January 17, 2014
Just heard @AggieWBB yell leader say "that might have been my favorite basketball game ever!" It was pretty amazing. Aggies win in OT 67-65— Brenda VanLengen (@BrendaVanLengen) January 17, 2014
Aggie basketball is out of its mind right now. Kennedy and Blair getting it done right now.— Aubrey Bloom (@aubreyrbloom) January 17, 2014
We are Texas A&M!!! Thanks @AggieWBB HUGE shoutout to Mr. Hyman!!! 😉— Kelsey Bone (@kelseybone3) January 17, 2014
Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
“I am absolutely worn out. We opened up the second half didn’t run the offense like we should have. We started settling for jumpers. I want jumpers, but I want six to eight foot jumpers. Williams and Walker can get there anytime they want to and that way my bigs have a chance to get the offensive rebound, but we were doing too many one-and-outs. They started getting the ball inside and doing a good job.
“I give Karla Gilbert a huge plus in this game. She went 40 minutes. Her mother didn’t play her 32 in high school. She just went 40 for me. She did a heck of a job. And you have to understand, yes she missed some bunnies, but she gave us some big baskets. She gave us some big rebounds.
“Just give South Carolina a lot of credit for playing so hard, for getting themselves back in the ball game. At half time I think we had twelve baskets out of fourteen and they were all by my guards. We have to have a better balance.
“Jordan Jones is playing as good as any point guard in the league right now. I played her 45 minutes. There’s nothing with Curtyce. I just liked what Jordan was doing. She was the catalyst. She was doing a great job.
“That was a great college basketball game; another great crowd. I just want to thank the ones that are here and tell the ones that stayed home and watched Scandal what they missed, because this team deserves to have 10,000 out there, and our men deserve to have 12,000 out there every time we play. The ones that were here- I love them to death, and the ones that were listening on the radio are going to read it in their papers. They are true fans and we’re going to keep building the momentum.
“I’m not sure how good we are, but I do know we play hard. I do know we have a lot of playmakers. And I do know I’ve got great guards.
“It was just a good ball game.”
On the impact of the win
“The loss would have been devastating to tell you the truth. It’s going to help. Maybe now the national media will start talking about us a little. We haven’t gone anywhere. I think we’re a pretty good team. Are we a great team? No. There isn’t one in the SEC. We’ve got a lot of very good teams. And it’s going to depend on 12-4 and tie for the championships.”
On the shots
“They out rebounded us, they outshot us, but we hit the free-throws. We made some key stops. And we worked hard to get that first half lead.”
On Sunday’s Mississippi State game
[Mississippi State Head Coach, Vic Schaefer]’s coming here to beat us. We’ve got to play better. He’s getting the job done, and I would expect nothing less. But when we toss it up instead of tee it up, I’m at home, and I need the fan-base out here. It will be another knock out drag out. We’re not good enough to blow anybody out and we’re not bad enough to get blown out by anybody.
Texas A&M Sophomore Guard Jordan Jones:
On coming up with the steals late in the game…
“At the time in the game, it was very big for our team. Without my teammates in the back denying the ball, I wouldn’t have had an opportunity. I give all the credit to them. South Carolina would have been able to get the ball on the wing easily without them. They were able to pressure her and get in her face. It gave me the capability for me to pressure her without fouling.”
On her mindset late in the game…
“In my mind, I knew I had made some big steals, Courtney and Karla both made some big shots. After every basket, I’m thinking the game is over. I knew once we got back on offense at the end, I thought we would be able to put the game away with our offensive capabilities. I just think God for everything.”
On not turning the ball over…
“That was one of our key points coming into the game: rebounding and not turning the ball over because they are a very good transition team and turning turnovers into points. Coach Blair said if we can take care of the ball, we can create more possessions for us. The more possessions we have, the more opportunities we have to score. We get the knowledge to know what to look for in the game so we won’t make those same mistakes.
Texas A&M Senior Forward Karla Gilbert
On the team’s mindset late in the game…
“We weren’t worried about the fouls; we were worried about South Carolina and getting stops. We wanted to finish the plays like we need to. That was our mindset. The game isn’t over; we need to keep busting our butts on offense and defense.”
On keeping composure…
“We can’t worry about what the referees do. We can only control everything in our circle. What good is arguing with the referee going to do? I was in foul trouble. I wasn’t going to try and risk it. We already had the game on the line; we didn’t need to have anything silly like that to risk losing.”
Texas A&M Sophomore Guard Courtney Walker
On her performance…
“I feel like I played pretty well. I always feel like when I’m missing shots, everyone tells me to keep shooting. That’s what helped me keep going. I can’t worry about the last shot that I missed. I’m just worried about hitting the shot and getting the win.”
South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley
“We dug ourselves in a whole that probably everybody in the gym didn’t think we had enough to get back in the game, but our team is resilient. They showed the heart of champions in the second half. I’m proud of their effort. I’m proud of the way they got back in the game.”
On the second half change up
“We wanted to win. We wanted to erase the 17 point deficit, and get ourselves in the game. They all believed it was going to happen and it happened for us.”
On being able to take the lead
“We didn’t make baskets when we actually needed to. Sometimes when you dig yourself in the whole like we did, sometimes those shots come up short in the end because you spent so much energy trying to get back in the game.”