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(7) Texas A&M Knocks off (14) Mississippi State in Top-15 Showdown

The Aggies held Mississippi State to just 3 points in the first quarter
Credit: KAGS-TV/Lia Musgrave

COLLEGE STATION, Texas —  Kayla Wells scored 19 points to lead the No. 7 Texas A&M to a victory over 14th-ranked Mississippi State 69-41 on Sunday.

Texas A&M (13-1, 5-1 SEC) scored the game's first five points and never trailed in bouncing back from its lone loss of the season, also ending a seven-game losing streak against the Bulldogs (8-4, 3-3) in the process.

Wells, a 6-foot senior guard, hit 8 of 9 field goals to lead three Aggies in double figures. Aaliyah Wilson added 15 points and nine rebounds.

Ciera Johnson had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Myah Taylor added 14 points to lead Mississippi State, which lost its second straight. Rickea Jackson added 11 points.

Texas A&M put the game away with a 17-4 run in the third quarter for a 43-25 lead, its largest of the game. Wilson had nine points, hitting 4 of 5 shots.

A&M grinded its way to a 14-3 lead after a quarter, despite missing 13 of 18 field goals. Johnson had two buckets off offensive rebounds and added a free throw to give A&M a 5-0 lead.

N'dea Jones contributed a three-point play as A&M hit all four free-throw attempts in the quarter. Mississippi State had its lowest scoring quarter in program history, managing only a 3-pointer by Aliyah Matharu. The Bulldogs were 1-of-13 shooting in the quarter with five turnovers for their worst 10 minutes since the NCAA went quarters in the women's game for the 2015-16 season.

Mississippi State pulled within 26-19 by halftime by outscoring A&M 7-1 in the last two minutes with Taylor and Xaria Wiggins hitting back-to-back 3-pointers.

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POSTGAME NOTES
RECORDS & SERIES NOTES

  • With the victory, Texas A&M climbs to 13-1 overall with a 4-1 mark in SEC play. A&M remains undefeated at Reed Arena this season, 8-0.
  • Mississippi State falls to 8-4 with a 3-3 record against SEC opponents.
  • The Aggies defeated the Bulldogs for the first time since the 2015-16 season, snapping a seven-game losing streak
  • Mississippi State now leads the all-time series 8-5, but A&M leads 4-2 in Aggieland.
  • A&M rises to 6-13 against the Associated Press No. 14 ranked team. The last victory against No. 14 took place on Nov. 8, 2015 in a 72-66 overtime game against Duke.

TEAM NOTES

  • A&M held Mississippi State to an 8% shooting clip and only three points in the first period, the lowest scoring quarter in Mississippi State women's basketball history.
  • The Maroon & White's defense in the first quarter allowed the fewest points in a quarter against an SEC opponent since the NCAA switched to a four-quarter format in 2015-16 season. 
  • Texas A&M outscored Mississippi State 20-6 in a 7:12 span during the third quarter of play, ballooning the lead to 21 points.
  • The Aggies never trailed in the game, holding the lead for 38:47. 
  • A&M held Mississippi State to a season-low 26.8% shooting.
  • A&M allowed Mississippi State to score a season-worst 41 points. Its previous low was 60 points against Ole Miss on January 10 of this season.
  • Texas A&M outrebounded its opponent for the 12th time this year, dominating the glass 43-36.
  • The scoring battle down low favored the Aggies for the 11th time this year, as A&M owned the margin for points in the paint, 34-18.
  • Ball movement was an emphasis for A&M, as the team dominated the assist total 18-9.
  • The 18 assists on 27 made field goals is Texas A&M's best assist total since starting SEC play.
  • Texas A&M started the game with a lineup of Aaliyah Wilson, Jordan Nixon, Kayla Wells, N'dea Jones and Ciera Johnson for the 14th consecutive game.

INDIVIDUAL NOTES

  • Kayla Wells led all players in scoring with 19 points on a season-best 88.9% shooting clip from the field.
  • Wells set a new season high in made 3-pointers, sinking all three attempts from behind the arc. Her previous season high was one, set in five different games.
  • The senior guard tied her season high in rebounds with five. She last pulled in five boards in the 93-91 win over then-No. 19 DePaul in the second game of the season.
  • This was Wells' fifth double-digit scoring performance this season, and the 55th of her career.
  • The Dallas, Texas, native led the game with a plus-33 plus/minus.
  • Aaliyah Wilson finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
  • Wilson's double-digit scoring performance was her 11th this season and 30th such game of her career.
  • The Muskogee, Oklahoma, native hauled in five-or-more rebounds for the seventh time this season and 25th time in her career.
  • Ciera Johnson had 14 points and led all players with 12 rebounds in 31 minutes.
  • Johnson recorded her third double-double of the year and the 21st of her career.
  • The Duncanville, Texas, native scored in double figures for the 11th time this year and 59th time of her career.
  • Johnson corralled double-digit rebounds for the sixth time this season and the 23rd time in her career.
  • Jordan Nixon led all players in assists with six, adding nine points and two rebounds in a team-high 33 minutes of action.
  • Nixon dished out five-or-more assists for the fourth time this year.
  • Gary Blair climbs to 821-331 in his career as a head coach, with a 418-168 record since joining the Aggies in 2003-04.

 
UP NEXT
Texas A&M women's basketball hits the road on Jan. 24 to play Mizzou at 4:30 p.m.




POSTGAME QUOTES
TEXAS A&M QUOTES
Head Coach Gary Blair

Opening Statement…

"First, it was hard coming back for both Mississippi State and Texas A&M after our respective losses. I thought it was going to be interesting to see which team responded, not regarding who won or lost, but who responded in the first 10 minutes of the game. I thought we responded very well even though we missed some layups. The thing is, we played with energy. Even though we weren't hitting too many outside shots, we were smart enough to drive and attempt some layups to put ourselves in position to get offensive rebounds. I wouldn't have changed any of those shots. Ciera [Johnson] and N'dea [Jones] play very well and play very physical. For Kayla Wells, this was her best complete game of the year. We don't care which player gets more of the spotlight; we just want to win."

On bouncing back following a loss at LSU…

"That was the thought for the day that we had posted in our offices. The setback happens sometimes, but the most important thing is the comeback once you return. How does your team respond? I thought we put that loss behind us the very next day. We reflected and rested a little, but our kids came right back and got to work. That game wasn't an upset at LSU. They've outplayed my teams there for the past four years so give them credit. That's an example of just how good this league is."

On the unselfishness of the Texas A&M offense…

"We're balanced, and I'm able to run a lot of different things at the right time, depending on who I think is hot at any particular moment. Mississippi State called a timeout in the second half when Aaliyah [Wilson] hit her first two shots, and I just told our team to keep finding her. Kayla [Wells] was taking whatever came her way, and she stepped up there with confidence. That's what you have to do as a player. We've been to war with our seniors for a long time, so I have veterans out there that make good decisions."

Senior Guard Kayla Wells

On her offensive performance…

"I felt like I was loose and more confident in my shot. I have been in the gym working on my shot a lot. I went out there today with a different mindset. I played how I usually play, not thinking about or second-guessing any of my shots. It worked out for me today in that way."

On the bounce back from the LSU loss…

"We knew going into practice this week that we needed to prepare for Mississippi State and let the LSU game go. It was a bad loss, and we knew what we needed to do. Ciera [Johnson] stressed that every day in practice. We have to get out there and prepare. As Coach Starkey said, this was a championship team response to the LSU game."

On the defensive dominance in the first quarter…

"Coach Starkey's game plan was a great one. He always comes up with a good game plan. We did a good job executing it and playing hard to find our stance and gaps today."

Senior Center Ciera Johnson 

On her rebounding performance…

"I feel these past few games I have been too complacent, especially on the offensive side. My first two years here I was active offensively on the boards, but I have gotten away from that. So today I was looking to be more active and it paid off."

On the chemistry of the team…

"We know that any given night, anyone can go off. Our goal is to set up plays for the person with the hot hand. We will try to find the best way to get the ball to you. Of course, we all take bad shots at times. Sometimes we need to pass the ball, it's a give and take. But this team doesn't care about who is getting the most points, going to media, or who the best player on the team is at any given moment. You have to defend everyone on the opposing team as a group, which I think we did a good job of tonight."

On Kayla Well's performance…

"When Kayla is hot, it takes a load off of everyone else. Kayla is a confident shooter, she's not a streaky one. Once she sees the ball go in the rim, she knows she can knock down the next one. It was good to have Kayla back on the offensive end since it makes us even more of a dangerous threat. When she gets going along with [Jordan] Nixon, [Aaliyah] Wilson, N'dea [Jones] and myself, it is going to be a good night for us."

MISSISSIPPI STATE QUOTES

Head Coach Nikki McCray-Penson

On her message to the team…

"First off, our team talked after the game. They needed to have a conversation and come to the conclusion that there are some things moving forward we have to start doing. Hopefully, we can hold true to the form of that. But they needed to have a pow-wow before I came in there today. They told me specifically what they are going to do moving forward. This program is built on toughness and competition. We play hard and have to continue to do the tough things like rebounding the basketball. We have to also continue to get the stops that we need. The offense will come here or there, but the defensive end is where it starts for me."