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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&M women’s hoops set their sights on Alabama

Sophomore+Khaalia+Hillsman+is+averaging+5.2+rebounds+per+game+this+sesaon.
Photo by Photo by: Morgan Engel

Sophomore Khaalia Hillsman is averaging 5.2 rebounds per game this sesaon.

After last Thursday’s overtime victory over Missouri, the No. 10 Texas A&M Aggies are refreshed and ready to attack their next challenge — Alabama.
The Aggies (14-5, 4-2) have not played since they defeated the Tigers at home—head coach Gary Blair said it was the first weekend he has had off mid-season in the past 13 years—and they will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide (13-7, 2-5) Thursday night.
Undefeated South Carolina comes to Reed Arena on Sunday to play a game that could pit the SEC’s top two teams against each other, but the focus throughout the week has been solely on beating Alabama.
“Our team was totally into Alabama today,” Blair said after the Aggies’ Wednesday practice. “We all watched the game last night—they played at Vanderbilt—it was a tie ballgame going into the fourth quarter. Again, the home team won and that’s what we need to make sure does not happen when we go to Alabama.”
The Crimson Tide’s overall record might not look overpowering, but they are a tough team to beat in their home gym. Blair describes Foster Auditorium as a “cracker box” that seats no more than 2,500 fans.
“It’s loud, they’re going to have trouble hearing me just like at South Carolina,” Blair said.
A&M’s leading scorer Courtney Walker said that it will be the smallest arena they’ve played in all season, and that they are going to have to play well if they hope to escape with a victory.
“We haven’t said anything about South Carolina because we want to focus [on Alabama],” Walker said. “They’re 11-1 at home. We want to make sure that we’re efficient on the road and not let them get any momentum.”
The odds are good that the Aggies’ offense will be tasked with beating a zone defense on Thursday. Blair said that they have faced a zone in about 90% of their conference action this year, so Alabama should be no different.
“That’s what everybody’s playing now so you might as well learn how to move and rebound out of it and have good shooters.”
The Aggies hope for solid performances from their two centers, Khaalia Hillsman and Rachel Mitchell. They have improved over the course of the season, and Blair said that they need to produce against Alabama.
“The key to it is attacking their zone and being able to have paint points,” Blair said. “This is a game where we really need to have 15-to-18 points from our 5s put together. We need Khaalia and Rachel to share the load inside to get their confidence up for that next team we play.”
Walker said that going at their pace and playing their style of basketball will be critical for the Aggies.
“We don’t want to get it too fast-paced because that’s what they like to do,” she said. “They want it to be fast and ugly. We want to play fast but controlled.”
Blair confirmed Wednesday that Courtney Williams will play after sitting out the Missouri game with a back injury, but that she will come off the bench due to Chelsea Jennings’ recent superb play.
Blair promised once again that his Aggies will be prepared for Alabama and will not get caught looking ahead to Sunday’s game against the No. 2 Gamecocks, who beat the Aggies in a 59-58 thriller back on January 17.
“We’ll throw the ranch at them,” he said. “Why worry about South Carolina when Alabama is right there?”

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