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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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Press conference takeaways: Women’s Basketball to SEC Tournament

Photo by Kaili Gaston

Junior G Kay Kay Green (4) watching the ball during Texas A&M’s game against LSU at Reed Arena on Sunday, Feb. 05, 2023.

March is just around the corner which means postseason basketball is upon us. 

The Texas A&M women’s basketball team will travel this week to Greenville, S.C. for the SEC Tournament as the 13 seed out of 14 teams. Ahead of the tournament, coach Joni Taylor along with freshman forward Janiah Barker and junior guard Sahara Jones sat down with the media. 

Here are some takeaways:

SEC Freshman of the week

On Monday, the SEC offices announced that Barker was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the last week of the regular season. Barker averaged 16.5 points and four rebounds per game in that stretch, while also shooting 57.1% from the field and 100% from beyond the 3-point line. 

“She’s a young lady who never complains,” Taylor said. “She shows up every day and wants to know what she can do to make herself better to help the team, and so for her to just be recognized for what she’s doing is incredible. I think it speaks to her but it also speaks to just our team and how happy they are for her and the success that she’s having so just extremely proud of her.”

Taylor watched Barker grow as a person since was in the seventh grade. Barker also originally committed to Taylor while she was at Georgia but decided to flip her commitment when the maroon and white hired Taylor. 

“She’s matured a lot in the time that I’ve known her from seventh grade until now and I’m just enjoying watching that process for her,” Taylor said. “She’s obviously a very special young lady on the floor, but the person she is is even more special.”

Barker, the Marietta, Ga. native, suffered a setback early in the season when she broke her hand against Kansas on Nov. 30. She missed the next 10 games before coming back Jan. 22 against Georgia, scoring 24 points off the bench and helping her team win their first conference game of the year. 

“It’s surreal, just knowing where I came from and how I broke my hand and just coming back from a journey and just having an opportunity to get that I’m truly blessed and I give all glory to God for that,” Barker said. “Shoutout to my teammates just continuing to feed me the ball and just trusting me and my team and my coaches. I thank them for that.”

Goals for the tournament

Likely the only way the Aggies will be playing basketball after this week is if they win the SEC Tournament. As the 13 seed out of 14 teams, the odds are not in favor of the maroon and white to hoist the trophy on the final day. Taylor said the main goal for A&M is to finish at their best. 

“I think number one [goal] is to continue to run our offense, play better defensively, be locked in, have everybody chip in,” Taylor said. “You look at when we made our run in the third quarter against Arkansas, we got production from a lot of different people. When we played here at home we have production from a lot of different people and that’s what it’s going to take and so just getting them to understand the consistency that comes with showing up every time you step on the floor.” 

Despite the odds being against the Aggies, Taylor told her team that she is packing her bag with the intention of making it to the championship game on Sunday. 

“My intention is to not play a game and go get on a plane and come home,” Taylor said.  “I’m not used to playing on Wednesday. That’s not anything I want anybody here to get used to, so there’s a certain mindset you have to have.” 

As easy as it may be to begin to think about next year when you are having an underwhelming season, Jones said the Aggies are focused on winning these games. 

“I feel like we’re approaching it like our mindset right now is to go in and win games, we’re not thinking about next year, that’s what’s to come,” Jones said. “If we go against Vanderbilt and we lose the game, that’s when next year will come into place. We’ll work on ourselves, have the experience that we had and use it for next year. Right now we just want to go in there, we want to have a good game against Vanderbilt and if we win, we go on and focus on the next team and just keep going from there and keep building, but I don’t think it’s worth thinking about next year right now because that would be selfish to do.”

Shutting down Harbison and the Commodores

The Aggies will open up the SEC Tournament against Vanderbilt on Wednesday March 1 in Greenville. The last time the maroon and white faced off against the Commodores, they fell 88-79 behind a career-high 41 points from graduate guard Ciaja Harbison. 

“She’s one of those players that when she gets going the rim looks like an ocean and we told our team that and she got going and so we’ve got to make it tough for her to catch it,” Taylor said. “I tell our players all the time if they can’t catch it they can’t score it, so we’ve got to do a really good job of just making everything tough for her.”

Harbison had a size advantage on most of the Aggie guards defending her last game so the maroon and white may look at using some of their bigger players to guard the 5-foot-6-inch guard. 

“She’s bigger than most of our guards that are guarding her and when she gets to a certain point, even if we’re in front of them, she can just raise up and elevate over them,” Taylor said. “We’ll look at putting a bunch of different people at her just to try to throw her off but we’ve got to not let her get to her sweet spot.”

Taylor said the last time they faced the Commodores, they had to deal with their press defense. This time around, the Aggies will know a little bit more what to expect and can prepare for the different defenses Vanderbilt will throw at them. 

“I think that they’ll probably press us,” Taylor said. “They pressed us last time, I think they’ll press a little bit more and they do a really good job of going man and zone and disguising that. Sometimes they’re man, sometimes their zone, sometimes I think they’re both in the same possession, so I think they just continue to throw different things at you to try to get you off kilter. I would fully expect them to double down on the paint and try to claw out the paint and take away obviously our inside game.”

A&M will look to avenge itself as they take on the Commodores Wednesday, in the first round of the SEC Tournament at 10 a.m.. 

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