BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas. – Janiah Barker recorded a career-high 24 points in her return to the court, propelling the Texas A&M women’s basketball team to Sunday’s 75-73 victory over the Georgia Lady Bulldogs.
Barker, who had not seen action since November 30, missing 10 games, drained 10-of-11 (90.9%) from the field, including hitting her only 3-point field goal attempt. The freshman forward was successful on her first eight field goal attempts. She added five rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes of action.
The first SEC victory of the Joni Taylor era did not come without some nail biting. The Maroon & White (6-12, 1-7 SEC) led 65-56 when Kay Kay Green hit a 3-pointer at the 4:31 mark of the fourth quarter, but Georgia (13-8, 2-5 SEC) salted the advantage down to 65-63 with five free throws and a jumper by Diamond Battles.
Georgia tied the game at the 2:11 mark, 67-67, and then again, 69-69 with 1:28 remaining. Barker splashed in her 10th field goal of the game with :56 seconds remaining and added a foul shot at the :24 mark to give A&M a 72-69 edge.
With 18 seconds left, Georgia cut the lead to 72-70 when Alisha Lewis made 1-of-2 from the line. The Lady Bulldogs immediately fouled Tineya Hylton and the A&M guard came up clutch, hitting both of her free throws to seemingly seal the deal with a 74-70 cushion.
Lewis had other thoughts, splashing a 3-pointer from the top of the arc with :11 on the clock to shave the A&M margin to 74-73.
Jada Malone hit 1-of-2 from the line and a tenacious Aggie defense forced Lewis into missing a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Kay Kay Green recorded her third-consecutive game with double digits in the scoring column. She scored 11 points on 5-of-7 from the field, including 1-of-1 from long range. Green added assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Hylton, who was also out of action the last nine games, scored 10 points in 14 minutes in her first game back.
Aaliyah Patty dished out a career-high 11 assists, the first double-digit assist game by an Aggie since Jordan Nixon against Lamar on Dec. 2, 2020. She added three points and five rebounds.
Playing with more than eight players available for the first time since Dec. 6, the Aggies shot a season-high 58.3% (28-of-48) from the field, including 50.0% (8-of-16) from long range. Georgia was able to remain competitive by making 80.0% (24-of-30) from the free throw line.
The Aggie offense got off to its best start since November with Barker’s eight points leading the Maroon & White in the first quarter. Tied 16-16 at the break, it marked the most points for A&M in the opening period since dropping 19 on Texas State on November 23.
Trailing 8-3 when she entered the game at the 5:48 mark, Barker sparked a 13-5 run, hitting 3-of-3 from the field, including one 3-point field goal.
Trips to the charity stripe proved to be the difference in a seesaw second quarter as Georgia headed into the intermission with a 34-31 advantage. The Lady Bulldogs hit 6-of-8 from the foul line while the Maroon & White were 2-of-3. The 31 points were the most in the first half of an SEC game for the Aggies.
Texas A&M scored the first six points of the third quarter to take a 37-34 lead at the 8:00 mark. The teams would trade scores for the next six minutes and the game was tied 47-47 with 1:58 remaining in the period. Barker made a layup and Hylton hit two from the charity stripe for A&M’s biggest lead of the first three periods, 51-47. Georgia’s Brittney Smith made an old-fashioned 3-point play down the stretch and A&M held a precarious 51-50 edge at the final break.
Texas A&M returns to action next Sunday when the Maroon & White travel to Nashville for a noon contest against Vanderbilt.
RECORDS & SERIES NOTES
- Texas A&M moves to 6-12 in the 2022-23 regular season, including 1-7 in the SEC.
- The Aggies’ overall record against the Georgia Lady Bulldogs betters to 10-5, including 5-1 while inside Reed Arena.
- Joni Taylor’s career record advances to 146-87 all-time and to 6-12 in her first season with the Aggies.
- Texas A&M scored a season-high 75 points, their previous high being 73 in the second home game of the season on Nov. 13.
- The Maroon & White held Georgia to 3-of-12 (25%) from deep. This marks the ninth time this season the Aggies have held an opponent to 25% or under from behind the arc.
- The Aggies dominated in points off the bench, holding a 47-26 advantage over the Lady Bulldogs.
- Texas A&M shot a season-high 58.3% (28-of-48) from the field.
- The Aggies scored 16 points in the first quarter, the most they’ve scored in the first frame since putting up 19 on Nov. 23, 2022.
- Texas A&M utilized a starting lineup of Sydney Bowles, Kay Kay Green, Eriny Kindred, Jada Malone and Aaliyah Patty for the sixth time this season (1-5).
- Led the Aggies off the bench, scoring a career-high 24 points, making her the first player this season to surpass 20.
- Scored in double-digits for the sixth time this season.
- Led the team in points for the third time this season after missing the last 10 games due to an injury.
- Hit 10-of-11 (90.9%) from the field.
- Led the team in rebounds for the fourth time this season, grabbing five.
- Drained a 3-pointer, marking the third time this season she has hit one-or-more from behind the arc.
- Swatted two shots, the fifth time this season she’s batted down one-or-more.
- Dished out a career-high 11 assists, making her the first player at A&M with 10-or-more assists since Jordan Nixon against Lamar on Dec. 2, 2020.
- Led the Aggies in assists for the third time this season.
- Hauled in five boards to lead the Aggies in rebounds for the ninth time this season and the 37th time in her career.
- Hit a 3-pointer, marking the ninth game this season she has made one-or-more shots from deep.
Kay Kay Green
- Put up 11 points, the third game in a row and fifth time this season she has scored in double digits.
- Drained one 3-pointer, the sixth time this season she has drained one-or-more from deep.
- Contributed three rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
- Matched a career-high 10 points in her first game back since Dec. 6, the third game this season she has scored in double digits.
- Brought down four rebounds and notched one assist.
- Led the Aggies in rebounds for the third time this season, grabbing five.
- Added nine points.
- Drained two 3-pointers, the fifth time this season she has hit one-or-more from behind the arc.
- Contributed eight points, two rebounds and one assist.
Head Coach Joni Taylor
On how much Barker’s return helps other players…
“It opens up the floor. (Barker) sees well, you’ve got to guard her, you’ve got to respect her, so it just frees up other players to have the freedom to do more. Obviously, the attention is going to go to Janiah, and it should. She was incredible tonight: 10-for-11 from the field. But, the seven that held it down until she and Tineya (Hylton) could come back. I’m so proud of them, I’m so proud of how they fought at times. I think the eight losses prepared us for today. Then (Barker) comes back, and you’ve got to guard her. She just brings a different energy and confidence to our team.”
On what this win means for the team…
“I am so happy for them. It feels so good for them to continue to trust the process. They could’ve laid down a long time ago, and they didn’t. They trust us, they believe in what it is that we’re telling them, and for them to continue to fight the way they have and show up every day and go out there and compete and for them to get the reward of that with the result being a win, I couldn’t be happier.
Freshman Forward Janiah Barker
On how her shooting came back strong…
“I think it’s the confidence that my teammates and my coaches have in me to know that I can go out there and do it. They told me if I was okay to play today, I’d play. If I wasn’t, I wasn’t. I didn’t even know I could play today. I found out this morning from the doctors. It feels good to be back. My hand’s fine, I’m good, I feel regular- actually, I feel better.”
On how this win affects the team’s confidence going forward…
“To be honest, I feel like what we did out there tonight is the same game plan that has been there from the previous games we’ve played. Although we’ve lost those games, the coaches have always come in with the same mindset, and out there coaching hard every game. So, we need to just continue to keep doing what we do. We’ve been reaching and reaching for a win, and we finally got it, but that doesn’t change anything that we’ve been doing.”
Fifth-Year Senior Forward Aaliyah Patty
On what it meant to have a bigger bench with Barker and Hylton back…
“It’s nice. Playing in the SEC with seven people is tough. It’s tough physically, it’s tough mentally. We’re glad to have bodies back to give us a breather and help us through mental fatigue. Also, to help us with scoring, defense, rebounds and assists. There’s a lot of positives from adding people back. So, we’re really glad to have almost everybody back.
On the importance of being versatile…
“It’s never all about scoring. You have all these people on the team to do different things. From game to game, it’s not going to be the same. Some games she might need me to score more. Some games she might need me to rebound more. Some games, like tonight, I needed to find my teammates and that’s what I did, and they helped me with assists by knocking shots down. It’s a game-to-game thing, finding out where you can be impactful. I think tonight, assists were where I was impactful, and I’ll take that.