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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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Women’s basketball has the mindset of winning two games

Womens+Basketball+Press
Photo by Photo by Jesse Everett
Women’s Basketball Press

SPOKANE — After the 2017 season in which the Aggies were outed in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Texas A&M head women’s basketball coach Gary Blair made bold proclamations about raising the bar for the 2018 season.
“Last year we didn’t have an impact player, but we went as far as our talent let us,” Blair said prior to the season. “This year, that’s not acceptable. We want to push ourselves to that next level.”
Blair was so confident in the returning talent he had he said he would be to blame if his team didn’t make the NCAA Tournament.
“This year, it will be unacceptable if we don’t make the NCAA Tournament, they better fire the coach or something,” Blair said.
The returning Aggies corps of stars — junior Anriel Howard, junior Danni Williams and senior Khaalia Hillsman, were just as phenomenal as expected in the beginning of the season. However, a star emerged in freshman point guard Chennedy Carter.
Carter came in as the No. 6 player in the 2017 class by espnW HoopGurlz and took the reins right away, starting in the season opener. Carter’s phenomenal start to the season raised eyebrows across the nation on December 15, when she netted 46 points against USC.
The returning starters and electric addition of Carter led the Aggies to a 12-3 record and a No. 22 national ranking entering SEC play.
The Aggies started SEC play with a two-point loss to the defending national champion South Carolina Gamecocks on New Year’s Eve. The maroon and white notched wins over Kentucky and Auburn before defeating No. 6 Tennessee in overtime, which gave them momentum.
A&M rode the momentum and finished SEC play with an 11-5 record, their only losses coming against Mississippi State (twice), South Carolina, Georgia and LSU, all of which received top six seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
Being the No. 5-seed in the SEC Tournament, the Aggies posted two wins against Arkansas and No. 24 LSU before they were knocked out by defending national runner-up Mississippi State in the semifinals.
The 24-9 (11-5 SEC) record A&M held at the end of the season was enough to receive a four-seed in the NCAA Tournament, allowing them to host the first two tournament games at Reed Arena.
Led by Carter and Hillsman combining for 48 points, the Aggie offense erupted in their first game of the NCAA Tournament, lifting A&M over Drake, 89-76.
The Aggies found themselves trailing 43-28 at halftime against DePaul in their second round matchup. Carter scored 32 points, including the game-winning three-point shot with 2.8 seconds remaining, to give the Aggies the fourth-largest comeback victory in NCAA Tournament history.
“I’m part of history, I wrote the book, I’ve seen it all. I’ve been coaching from 1973 on and it was one of the best performances in women’s basketball history,” Blair said of Carter’s performance against DePaul.
The No. 4-seed A&M women’s basketball team will travel to Spokane, Washington, on Thursday to take on Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 on Saturday. The two teams have faced off once since the Aggies upset the Fighting Irish in 2011 to win the National Championship; however, Blair said he thinks the Irish will still have a bitter taste in their mouths and be very motivated to knock his team out of the tournament.
“I know Notre Dame is going to bring up 2011, that we took their championship away from them. We didn’t take their championship, we won that game,” Blair said. “There’s no doubt we were the better team that day and now we’ve got to come in and be the slight underdog against a very good team and well-coached team and we’re going to give it everything we have.”
The A&M-Notre Dame matchup will tip-off on Saturday at 3:00 p.m CT. The game will be televised on ESPN. If the Aggies win Saturday, they will play Monday night against the winner of Central Michigan-Oregon.
“We’re going to Spokane to win two ball games, not just one, but we’ve got to take care of Notre Dame first,” Blair said.

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    Photo by Photo by Jesse Everett

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