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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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Pitts lifts Aggies to first round win

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Photo by Abbey Santoro

Senior Destiny Pitts put the game out of reach of the Troy Trojans with a late pair of free throws. 

AUSTIN, Texas — Prior to his team’s first round matchup with Troy, Gary Blair said a fast start would be the key to winning in the NCAA Tournament
But as the Aggies proved on Monday, the finish is the most important aspect of the game.
A pair of free throws with 2.6 seconds left was A&M’s saving grace in a nail-biter against the Trojans as Destiny Pitts effectively put the game on ice and lifted the Aggies to the 84-80 win.
A&M coach Gary Blair said close games like this are par for the course when it comes to chasing a national championship.
“To advance in this tournament, you have to have games like this,” Blair said. “You have to look at yourself in the mirror and find out the answers. When it comes down to the end, we know how to execute and run plays.”
Through shooting troubles, A&M maintained the lead for much of the game after a 10-6 run in the first quarter put the Aggies up 25-17 heading into the second frame.
A prolific scoring offense, Troy entered the game ranked third in the nation in points per game. That began to show halfway through the third quarter when the Trojans used a 9-0 run to cut the Aggies’ once-16-point lead to five.
A&M managed to hang on to its lead through the start of the fourth, but a flurry of buckets from the Trojans to start the final frame put them within one. Though Wilson put up four points to keep the Aggies ahead, Troy tied the game on a three-pointer from senior guard Janiah Sandifer, then took the lead after a missed layup and a turnover by A&M.
A back-and-forth battle ensued, with each team desperate to advance to the second round in the tournament.
With the Aggies leading 79-77, an offensive foul on Troy’s Tyasia Moore took away what would have been a game-tying bucket with 53 seconds remaining in the game.
A series of eight free throws — five for A&M and three for Troy — followed to keep the Aggies in the lead.
Though they struggled from the field, the Aggies excelled from the free throw line, hitting 20 of 24 attempts. By the end of the game, four members of Troy’s lineup had found themselves in foul trouble. The Trojans finished the night with 25 total fouls to A&M’s 13.
“That was our goal, to get to the free throw line 25 times, and we’re very good free throw shooters, particularly when I’ve got the right people at the line,” Blair said. “What disappoints me is we didn’t finish enough of those drives or layups or transitions to get a little bit of separation.”
The Aggies didn’t get quite off to the start Blair wanted, but shots began falling around the six-minute mark of the first quarter. However, A&M was unable to build separation until halfway through the opening frame as the Trojans kept in pace with the Aggies.
Despite the Aggies’ early lead, that momentum didn’t carry over into the second quarter. Through the first five minutes, A&M hit just four of its 12 shots.
“It’s hard for anybody to come off a two-week break period and play,” Nixon said. “Of course, it’s not an excuse at all, but we just have to match energy or exceed our opponent’s energy. I think that was the biggest thing. Troy was jacked up the whole game. We ebbed and they flowed and we were able to pull out a win.
The Aggies held Troy to 17 points in the second quarter, limiting the Trojans to 38.1 percent from the field before halftime.
Wilson was key to the Aggies’ defensive efforts, recording a game-high, career-high six steals on Monday.
After Troy junior forward Felmas Koranga led the Trojans in the first quarter with eight points, she was able to add just one more point on a free throw before halftime as she played just three minutes in the second quarter with a pair of fouls.
Alexus Dye filled in for Koranga in the second quarter, taking over as Troy’s leading scorer with 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting heading into halftime.
The Aggies advance to face Iowa State on Wednesday. Nixon said Monday’s close game proves the toughness of her team.
“If nothing else, I think Texas A&M women’s basketball is resilient,” Nixon said. “We showed resiliency. Survive and advance that’s what it’s about. Obviously we didn’t play our best game in any way shape or form. We’re just going to take this and keep it moving and try to get better, be better come Wednesday.”

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