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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&M uses record comeback to down Penn 63-61

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Photo by Photo by: C. Morgan Engel

Junior center Khaalia Hillsman led the Aggies with a career-high 27 points in their 63-61 comeback win over Penn. 

When Penn’s Sydney Stipanovich drained a long jumper to put the Quakers up 58-37 with 8:59 to go in the game, the contest appeared to be out of reach.

But as sports legend Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair may have dropped that quote in his players’ heads, because a switch would soon be flipped in A&M’s game, as the Aggies (22-11) did the improbable – they closed the game on a 26-3 run and beat the Quakers (22-8) 63-61.

The 21-point comeback win was the largest in Women’s NCAA Tournament history.

“That’s the biggest comeback I’ve ever been a part of,” Blair said about the historic victory. “The game is never over at A&M until we decide it’s over.”

A&M continued to inch back before Khaalia Hillsman caught a dish from Danni Williams between two Penn defenders and laid the ball off the glass with 19.1 seconds remaining to give the Aggies their first lead since early in the first quarter at 60-59.

Jasmine Lumpkin forced a turnover on the ensuing Quaker possession off an in-bounds play, with Williams draining a pair of free throws after being fouled to put A&M up three with 15.9 left.

Penn gave a desperation heave off an inbounds play with 0.3 remaining, but the shot fell short and the Aggies sealed the unbelievable comeback victory, advancing to the Second Round.

“If I was a spectator, I’d probably be sweating bullets,” Hillsman said. “My family when I went over there [after the game] said, ‘Well we picked a great one to go to.’ I’m sure it was exciting to watch a 20-point comeback, I’ve never seen something like that.”

During the miraculous run, the Aggies shot just 6-for-17 from the field, but were 14-of-15 from the free throw line. For the game, A&M shot a mere 30 percent, but outscored Penn 28-9 in the fourth quarter after entering the final frame with just 35 points.

“I just think it was the fact that if we lose, we’re going home so we don’t have time to be tired or get a sub or take a play off,” senior point guard Curtyce Knox said of the change in play in the fourth quarter. “We just came out in the fourth quarter and played our hearts out. I can honestly say that everybody on this team, we left it all out on the court.”

On the other side, Penn missed its final 10 shots of the game and committed seven turnovers during that span as A&M dialed up a relentless press down the stretch.

“The last eight minutes, their defense really got us,” Stipanovich, who led Penn with 20 points, said of the Quakers’ monumental meltdown. “I think we were still trying to stick to our fundamentals and play Penn basketball. Their press got to us. They sped us up.”

Hillsman anchored the Aggies on offense, dropping a career-high 27 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, on 9-of-14 shooting in the midst of the Aggies’ offensive woes. Hillsman was also 9-of-11 from the charity stripe on the evening.

Anriel Howard played a key role in the comeback as well, grabbing a game-high 16 rebounds, including six during the final run.

The Aggies will face host and 4-seed UCLA (23-8) Monday night at 9:00 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
 

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