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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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‘Aggies never die’

A&M’s 17-point comeback falls just short against 6-seed Nebraska in NCAA Tournament
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Photo by Ishika Samant
Texas A&M Aggies forward Janiah Barker (2) during Texas A&M’s game against LSU on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2024, at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

Down 17 with just under 14 minutes left in its NCAA Tournament opening round game against 6-seed Nebraska, 11-seed Texas A&M women’s basketball could have called it a great season. It could have reflected on what it meant just to get back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2021.

Instead, the Aggies fought. They rallied back to take a 59-58 lead with 17 seconds remaining. After a subsequent off-ball foul, A&M found itself with 1.7 seconds left, down one and one chance for a miracle.

Then graduate guard Endyia Rogers grabbed the inbound at the top of the key and put up the last shot of her college career. It fell wide left, and A&M ended its season at 19-13 with a 61-59 loss to the Huskers.

“Aggies never die,” senior G Kay Kay Green said. “We showed that tonight, and I’m very proud of us. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win, but that’s what we do.”

A tale of two halves

To be in the position to have a shot to win the game at all was a minor miracle given how the Aggies opened the game. A&M was held scoreless for the first 4:26 of play, then hit three three-point shots on the way to its 11-10 lead late in the first quarter.

That was the Aggies’ last lead for over 30 minutes of game time. A&M entered halftime down seven, having shot just 24% in the first half and given up 11 turnovers, leading to nine Husker points.

“Our league prepares us really well for anything we might see,” coach Joni Taylor said. “There’s been several times this year we were up, we were down, a team makes a run, we make a run and so the conversation during the timeout, anytime there’s a dead ball, is just ‘we’ve been here before.’”

The Aggies — who entered the night ranked 15th in the nation in rebounds per game — outrebounded the Huskers 38-30 and were able to force eight second-half turnovers to help fuel their comeback — all without leading rebounder junior forward Lauren Ware, who was out with an ankle injury.

But the engine and the engineer of the rally was senior G Aicha Coulibaly. After being held scoreless in the first half, Coulibaly put up 26 points — 10 more than the game’s next highest scorer — in the second half to go along with her 10 rebounds.

“My team trusted me,” Coulibaly said. “They had to believe in me, and they were telling me to keep shooting the ball. I just had my confidence, I just kept shooting and doing whatever I do best and it was just working.”

It was Coulibaly’s and-one play with 17 seconds left in the game that gave A&M the chance for its March miracle that was not to be.

“That locker room is really hurting right now,” Taylor said. “I feel for them. But I would rather see them hurting and motivated to come back better than for them to have a lack of empathy or a lack of care.”

Perspective and progress

It may not have ended the way A&M hoped it would, but this is an Aggie team for fans to be proud of, Taylor said.

“You’re looking at a team that won two conference games last year and nine games total.” Taylor said. “And in year two, we’re sitting here, at the NCAA Tournament — which was one of our goals for our program. I don’t want how this game ended to overshadow the tremendous year that we had in year two of our program.”

Year two of Taylor’s tenure brought a new focus for the Aggies and new highs and lows along with it.

“Last year, it was learning how to play basketball and this year it was learning how to win,” Taylor said. “And we did that well at times and at times we did not. But the experience we gained this year, both in our wins and in our losses, being able to come to the tournament in year two, puts us in a really good position.”

The progress A&M has made over the past two years — and the potential it has to go even further — stems from what Taylor has done during her time in Aggieland.

“We’re in great hands with Joni Taylor,” Green said. “… She does what she needs to do. She’s a great coach and she is going to lead this program and do well for us.”

 

 

 

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