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

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Women’s basketball hosts touted No. 6 Tennessee

Photo by C. Morgan Engel

Freshman guard Chennedy Carter with senior center Khaalia Hillsman and junior guard Danni Williams during Wednesday night’s close game against visiting Rice.

Playing in big games is nothing new for No. 17 Texas A&M, but Thursday night’s matchup against No. 6 Tennessee is the Aggies’ biggest game on paper, according to head coach Gary Blair.
“This is our fifth Top 10 team we’ve played this year, and that’s pretty good on scheduling,” Blair said. “But the bottom line is we’re 0-4 in those others. We need to find a way to make this happen on Thursday night.”
Tennessee is on a warpath though, coming into the contest undefeated and seldom challenged this season, as the Lady Vols’ smallest margin of victory was seven against then No. 2 Texas in December.
“I look forward to playing them every year, especially this year,” junior guard Danni Williams said. “They’re 17-0, No. 6 in the country, so that’s exciting for us to get them at home and be able to play in front of our fans.”
Highly-touted 6-foot-6 center Mercedes Russell is the centerpiece of Tennessee’s smaller 10-person roster. The senior averages 17.1 points per game and adds 8.5 rebounds per contest as well.
The matchup is one that excites A&M center Khaalia Hillsman, who said she knows her defense must be at her best in order to neutralize the athletic Russell.
“I can’t get behind her for sure, she’s too good,” Hillsman said. “I just have to make sure I can sprint back on defense, beat her up the lane, make her work, tire her out hopefully so maybe some of her shots won’t go in as easily.
“My plan is to make her work harder than she’s had to work.”
Both Hillsman and Russell are coming off 30-plus point performances, and Blair said that Hillsman – who was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday – is among the SEC’s best post players.
“I think in our league, you have some dominating five players,” Blair said. “Khaalia Hillsman is right up there with them.”
Blair said the matchup of Hillsman and Russell, as well as forwards Anriel Howard of A&M and Jamie Nared of Tennessee will be pivotal in Thursday’s game. Hillsman added that position matchup is equally pit, which will make for a battle across the court.
“We’re pretty much matched up at every position,” Hillsman said. “They’re a complete team, and we’re a complete team, so it’s really even on both sides.”
The Aggies and Lady Vols tip-off at 6 p.m. and the game will be televised on SEC Network.

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