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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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A battle in Corvallis

A&M women’s basketball returns to NCAA Tournament, facing 6-seed Nebraska
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Photo by Adriano Espinosa
Sophomore F Janiah Barker (2) during Texas A&M’s game against Alabama on Sunday, Mar. 3, 2024, at Reed Arena.(Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion)

It’s all gas, no breaks for Joni Taylor and Texas A&M women’s basketball postseason.

The 11-seed Aggies will take on 6-seed Nebraska Cornhuskers women’s basketball team in the first round of the 2024 NCAA tournament on Friday, March 22 at 9:30 p.m. in Corvallis, Oregon.

A&M heads into Gill Coliseum for the Big Dance with much to prove, having lost four of its last five games, but ultimately improving from last year’s 9-20 campaign.

“Joni is relentless,” junior forward MJ Johnson said. “She told us last year when we had seven people that this is not the team that we will be next year and she spoke that life into us last year so we are so grateful to have our name called.”

Taylor has said that her team struggles to come out aggressively and put four quarters together. In SEC play against the Arkansas Razorbacks, the Aggies scored only 20 points in the first half — just 5 in the second quarter. However, the Aggies rallied and scored 53 points in the second half to send the Razorbacks back to Fayetteville with a 73-67 loss.

Ten Aggies owning the hardwood in scoring is what it took to get the job done, with double-digit scoring from senior guards Aicha Coulibaly and Sahara Jones, sophomore F Janiah Barker and freshman G Solé Williams. This type of production will be needed for the Aggies against the Cornhuskers.

Getting Coulibaly going early will also be key for the Aggies. The Auburn transfer did not back down in the battle against No. 1 South Carolina during the SEC tournament, dropping a career-high 32 points with six rebounds, two assists and three steals.

“We always harp on letting everyone touch the ball,” Jones said. “When we have a high number of assists, we win games.”

Managing the glass will also give the Maroon and White an edge. A&M is the No. 18 ranked rebounding team in the nation, notching 42.3 rebounds a contest, and are 14-1 this season when out-rebounding teams by 10 or more.

Last time the Aggies matched up against the Cornhuskers, it was the Huskers that took home a 74-63 win at Reed Arena in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.

The Cornhuskers are 22-11 overall and 11-7 in Big Ten play for their highest seed since 2014. This season, they managed wins over Purdue and NCAA qualifiers Michigan State and Maryland at the Big Ten Tournament before falling short, 89-94, in overtime to No. 1 seed Iowa in the championship game.

Big Ten Freshman of the Year and F Natalie Potts had led the way, owning five double-doubles, including 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in the Big Ten quarterfinal win over Michigan State.

“They are shooters, real fundamental and screen a lot,” Jones said. “That’s a tough team right there but we are going to do the best that we can do.”

First-Team All-Big Ten center Alexis Markowski averaged 16.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists in four conference tournament games, including 23 points and 13 rebounds in the Big Ten Championship.

Graduate G Jaz Shelley leads the Cornhuskers, averaging 20.5 points, five rebounds and 8.5 assists, including 16 points and a career-high 13 assists in the Big Ten Championship.

“We obviously have our hands full,” Taylor said. “[Nebraska] made it to the Big Ten Championship and lost in overtime to Iowa so that speaks right away to what they are capable of.”

The Aggies are making their first postseason appearance since the 2021 NCAA Tournament. If A&M were to advance, it would play the winner of No. 3 seed, and host school, Oregon State or Eastern Washington in the second round.

“Like the SEC says, it just means more,” Johnson said. “It just feels different in March for every basketball team across the nation.”

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