|Louisville's Bria Smith (21) chases after a loose ball with Texas A&M's Sydney Carter (4) and Skylar Collins (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)|
No. 6 A&M gets 76-58 win over No. 9 Louisville
COLLEGE STATION, Texas—Louisville coach Jeff Walz didn't want to make excuses after his team's 76-58 loss to Texas A&M on Tuesday.
Still, he couldn't help but point out that missing three of his top players made facing the defending national champions difficult.
Kelsey Bone scored 15 points, Sydney Carter added 14 and Tyra White added 13 as No. 6 Texas A&M cruised the win over the shorthanded, ninth-ranked Cardinals.
The Cardinals were playing without star point guard Shoni Schimmel who was serving the second of a two-game suspension. They were led by Bria Smith's career-high 20 points.
Schimmel's suspension came after Louisville reported to the NCAA that she played in a non-sanctioned 3-on-3 summer tournament on her reservation in Oregon.
They were also without Tia Gibbs, who missed the game after injuring her shoulder against Missouri State on Sunday, and Monique Reid, who has back and foot injuries.
"When I scheduled the game, I expected to have those players on the court," Walz said. "It's a challenge to play a team like this when you don't have your two first team All-Big East players."
The Aggies received their national championship rings and unveiled a banner commemorating their title in a pregame ceremony and the excitement seeped into the game as they jumped out to an 8-0 lead.
It was a lead they never gave up. The Aggies led by nine points with 13 minutes remaining before using an 11-0 run capped by a 3-pointer by freshman Alexia Standish to stretch the lead to 58-38 three minutes later.
"It was pretty tough," Smith said. "I think that we got after it for the most part, but we didn't for a stretch, we just let them get offensive rebounds and lost a lot of defense."
The Cardinals were forced into 27 turnovers without Schimmel handling the ball, including six from Smith and five from Shelby Harper.
"I'm not saying we win, but it's a difference when you've got an experienced point guard on the floor," Walz said.
Texas A&M coach Gary Blair agreed and knows that Louisville having three top players out changed the complexion of the game.
"We did not play all of Louisville," he said. "They had three starters out and instead of a 20-point ball game I think it would have been right down to the wire."
Blair thought that his team's full-court press was a key to the win.
"You just cannot simulate that kind of pressure in practice, what we put on people," he said.
Smith said this game showed the team several areas where it needs to improve.
"I just think we just have to get back and work on pretty much everything," she said. "We have to work on our rebounding, boxing out and just executing things better."
This was the just the second meeting between these teams and the first since a Louisville win in 1992. It is the first of several tough non-conference games for the Aggies, who will also meet No. 4 Connecticut, No. 16 Purdue and No. 23 Southern Cal before Big 12 play begins.
Bone, in her first season with the Aggies after sitting out last year following a transfer from South Carolina, didn't have a turnover after losing the ball six times in her Texas A&M debut. She also led the team with nine rebounds.
Carter had a career-high eight steals and White grabbed seven rebounds for Texas A&M.
Louisville got within 17 points on a layup by Smith with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining. The Aggies responded with an 8-0 run to extend the lead to 73-49 and put the game farther out of reach.
The Aggies took an early 8-0 lead thanks to four quick points each from White and Bone. The Cardinals didn't score until Smith hit a pair of free throws with just more than 16 minutes left in the first half to make it 8-2.
Texas A&M was up by 12 points with three minutes remaining in the first half, but Louisville scored six straight points after that to cut the lead to 31-25. But Adaora Elonu hit a jump shot 19 seconds before halftime to give the Aggies a 33-25 lead at the break.