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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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One step away
June 8, 2024

Double trouble

Womens+Basketball
Photo by Photo by Kaylee Cogbill
Women’s Basketball

Entering the 2019-20 season, the Texas A&M women’s basketball team had high expectations.
Initially ranked No. 6 in the preseason AP poll, the Aggies hope to compete for an NCAA National Championship March 20 through April 5 in New Orleans. To reach that goal, A&M needed its frontcourt of junior forward N’dea Jones and junior center Ciera Johnson to complement the team’s star scorer, junior guard Chennedy Carter. Despite a road loss to Florida State, the team entered its SEC schedule with expectations of topping the conference.
Then, in the second quarter of a Jan. 9 contest against LSU, Carter left the game with a left ankle injury. The frontcourt that previously looked to her for support suddenly needed to forge its own identity.
Missing its leading scorer, who averaged almost 22 points per game, the dynamics of the team began to shift.
“I think Ciera and I have really tried to step it up and carry the team,” Jones said. “As a team, I think we’re starting to connect a lot better. Chennedy’s a big part of our team chemistry; even though Chennedy’s hurt, I think our team chemistry is coming together.”
In a conference with dominant frontcourt players like Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard and Auburn’s Unique Thompson, being able to stand out physically in the SEC is important for their success, said Johnson.
“The SEC is a very physical, very grind-it-out type of league,” Johnson said. “To have our kind of height and our skill set is very [beneficial]. Not only do we put pressure on other teams, it helps us defend other post players, and there are a lot of good post players in the SEC.”
Jones and Johnson are roommates when the Aggies are on the road, and Jones said the bond they have adopted has helped their on-court communication.
“When there’s a mistake made, we make sure that we connect and try to figure out what we did wrong and what we need to do,” Jones said. “Before games, we scout together and go over things that we need to do. Then we’ll have a pregame talk with each other, trying to pick each other’s brains about what needs to happen in this game. On the court when one’s not doing too well, we’ll try to talk to the other one to make sure we both get in the flow of the game.”
This season, both Jones and Johnson have established themselves as players who can put together offensively dominant performances in any game. Johnson has recorded six double-doubles this season and has scored in double digits over her last 12 contests. Jones has recorded a double-double in 10 consecutive games since Dec. 29 and has recorded 12 during the season, which is second-best in the SEC.
Jones said being able to perform consistently is proof of her hard work.
“I really haven’t thought about it,” Jones said. “I hear people make comments about it, but I’m trying really hard to just be consistent this year. I feel like last year, I had a lot of games that were up and down, so this year having the straight double-doubles has just proved that I’m more consistent.”
Not interested in personal accomplishments, Johnson said she succeeds when her team does.
“In the game, as long as we secure the rebound, that’s all we really care about,” Johnson said. “As long as somebody from A&M secures the rebound, we’re totally fine.”
The duo’s efforts have put them in prestigious company at A&M. Both are near the top of the Aggies’ career double-doubles list, with Jones’ 21 career double-doubles ranking third all time at A&M and fourth among active SEC players. Johnson has 18, which places her fifth among active SEC players and in a tie for sixth among the A&M all-time list with Danielle Adams.
Given the rich history of post players at A&M, being considered among the best is an honor, Johnson said.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Johnson said. “There have been some very good post players to come through here at A&M, whether that’s Kelsey Bone, Adams, Anriel Howard or Khaalia Hillsman. To be talked about in that aspect is very nice.”
In a conference loaded with top teams like South Carolina and Mississippi State, Johnson said she’s confident her team can find success, even with the three conference losses the Aggies have sustained thus far this season.
“I think we’re right up there with them,” Johnson said. “I think our downfall could probably be not playing hard enough or not giving it our all. Recently we’ve changed that, we’ve started off strong and have been playing really hard. I think that as we continue to go throughout the season, we will continue to be right up there with them.”

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