No. 14 Texas A&M survives Kansas' second-half rally
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Gary Blair plopped in a chair flanked by Kelsey Bone and Tyra White and prepared to answer questions about Texas A&M's 76-65 victory over Kansas.
Silence filled the room.
So, Blair decided to start asking them himself.
"Tyra, I'll ask you," he said. "What does it feel like coming back to Kansas? Your fans are in the stands. This'll be your last time."
"It's always good to come back and play in front of my family," said White, who grew up in Kansas City and had 12 points for the Aggies (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) on Saturday night.
"Kelsey," Blair continued, without missing a beat. "What was it like playing against Carolyn Davis? Y'all played AAU, you're both Houston girls."
"To be able to play someone I was a little familiar with was great," said Bone, trying to hide her smile after leading the Aggies with 18 points.
Texas A&M certainly earned the right to have a little fun in the postgame news conference.
Adaora Elonu had 17 points and Sydney Carter finished with 13 for the Aggies (13-4, 4-2 Big 12), who led by as many as 17 in the first half. Their advantage was trimmed to seven midway through the second, but they responded with another scoring binge to re-establish the 17-point cushion.
The Jayhawks (15-3, 4-2), who had been off to their best start since the 1993-94 season, didn't have enough time to mount yet another comeback.
"They're arguably one of the best defensive teams in the country, certainly one of the top five," Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "It hurt us when we picked up the dribble. That's sharks smelling blood in the water."
Angel Goodrich scored a career-high 28 points, but she also contributed 11 of the Jayhawks' 23 turnovers. The Aggies came into the game forcing 21.3 turnovers per game, best in the Big 12.
Monica Engelman finished with 14 points for Kansas, while Davis was held to 10.
"We just dug a hole the first half," Henrickson said. "They got separation."
Texas A&M, the defending national champion, has won three straight overall and the last nine against Kansas. The Aggies' last loss to the Jayhawks was on Jan. 25, 2003, in College Station.
They looked as if they would put this one away early.
The 6-foot-4 Bone scored their first six points, using her big size advantage inside, before Elonu and White added jumpers to make it 10-2 just 4½ minutes into the game.
The lead swelled to 31-15 with about 6 minutes to go when Bone scored again inside, and it was 35-18 -- the biggest lead of the half -- when Carter knocked down a jumper with 4:56 left.
It was still 43-28 at the break.
Kansas managed to claw its way back early in the second half, when Goodrich used her speed to get to the basket. She scored six of her team's first eight points, and the lead was trimmed to 51-41 when Aishah Sutherland made a foul shot with 12:28 left -- her 1,000th career point.
The Jayhawks made it 53-46 on a 3-pointer by Goodrich, but that was as close as they got.
Bone answered with a basket inside at the other end, and the Aggies put together their game-deciding run over the next 4 minutes. When White knocked down a 15-footer to make it 63-46 with 8:41 left, Blair leaped up in front of the bench and pumped his fist.
The energetic Aggies coasted the rest of the way, allowing Blair to improve to 12-0 against the Jayhawks. He's 9-0 against them since taking over at Texas A&M in 2003.
"Our team is starting to gel," said Blair, who also spent time professing his love for Allen Fieldhouse and his respect for Kansas men's coach Bill Self during an impressive oratory.
"Folks, we haven't played too well this year," Blair concluded, "because we're getting everybody's best game. But that's what it's like when you're the defending national champions."
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2022-23 Big 12 Conference Standings