COLLEGE STATION-Texas A&M saw its eight game win streak end at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats by the score of 70-66 at Reed Arena Monday night.
Freshman Courtney Walker scored 14 points in the final eight minutes of the game, including the final 10 for Texas A&M, as she tried to help the Aggies claw back from 14 points down. Walker matched her career high 20 points, set three times earlier this season.
“None of our offense was working and we ran a couple sets for her and then we got into transition and I told her to go do her best Michael Jordan impression and she did a pretty good job at it,” Head Coach Gary Blair said when asked about Walker’s play. “Walker is a great kid and she works hard and she gave a chance to be in it at the end.”
A&M (20-6, 10-2 SEC) lost for just the second time in the last 14 games, both to Kentucky (23-3, 11-2). The maroon and white fell to third in the SEC with the loss, while Kentucky jumped the Aggies in the standings to sit at second. All six of A&M’s losses this year came to teams ranked in the Top-10.
The hometown team opened the game making 4-of-6 shots to take an early seven point lead in under four minutes of action, but the Wildcats stayed the course with five straight points to cut the Aggie lead to just two at the first media timeout.
The Aggies and Wildcats battled back-and-forth for much of the first half with four ties and two lead changes in the first 12 minutes of play. Kentucky took a seven point lead on the heels of a 17-4 run in just under five and a half minutes of action.
Senior Adrienne Pratcher and the Aggies countered with strong play of their own to cut the Kentucky lead to just one with two minutes left in the half. Pratcher had a coast-to-coast layup and a three pointer to score five straight points and pull the Aggies within just one. Kentucky responded with back-to-back threes to push the lead back out to seven.
“I was proud of our team, we made some mistakes,” Blair added about the rally near the end of the first half. “Those two threes right before half really hurt us, we had cut it to one and we had the momentum going into half.”
A&M attempted to take the lead back, cutting the deficit to as little as two twice early in the second half, but the Wildcats again had an answer scoring seven straight point to take a then game-high 10 point lead.
The home side did not give up when trailing by a game-high 14 points with just over nine minutes to play, responding with a 16-6 run in just four minutes. During the run Walker had eight points to lead the Aggie charge.
Walker scored with just four seconds left to cut the deficit to one with a free-throw following the layup. Blair called for a miss following a timeout, but the Aggies could not corral the rebound and fouled the Wildcats to send them to the free-throw line. Bria Gross made both free-throws to close out the scoring on the night at 70-66 in Kentucky’s favor.
“When Walker went down to cut it two and shoot the free-throw to cut it to one, I was not going to take a chance on stealing the inbound when we have not pressed all game,” Blair said about the Walker’s layup and free-throw attempt to cut deficit to one. “I told Walker to miss it, which was our best chance to win it.”
Kentucky outscored Texas A&M 27-9 on points off of turnovers and 11-4 on the fast break. The Aggies did control the paint outscoring the Wildcats 34-24 in the paint and out-rebounding the visitors 36-32.
Joining Walker in double figures were seniors Adrienne Pratcher and Kristi Bellock with 12 points each. Bellock registered her sixth career double-double with a career high 15 rebounds. Junior Kelsey Bone and Bellock led the team with four assists a piece.
Kentucky was paced A’Dia Mathis with 13 points in the win. DeNesha Stallworth recorded a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds and a school record seven blocks.
The Aggies finish the three game home stand with a Thursday night match-up with Ole Miss at 7:00 p.m. (CT). Thursday night will continue the elementary student promotion, students can register for free tickets online for any of the remaining home games, parents can go to http://www.12thmanfoundation.com/ticket-center/promo/elementary.aspx
to register their children for free tickets to the game. Additionally any youth wearing their basketball jersey can stop by the ticket office and get into the game for free.