March 20, 2010
SEATTLE (AP) -Gary Blair insisted there was no underestimation by second-seeded Texas A&M.
Still, seeing themselves trailing a No. 15 seed, even if it was still in the first half, was a jolt the Aggies needed to finally emerge from their first-half slumber.
Danielle Adams dominated the middle with 23 points, Tanisha Smith finished an assist short of a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and the Aggies shook off pesky Portland State for a 84-53 win in the first-round of the Sacramento region Saturday night.
The bigger, faster and more talented Aggies (26-7) allowed the upstart Vikings to hang around for most of the first half, even watching Portland State (18-15) run off six straight points to take a 28-27 lead with 4:25 left in the half.
That basket by Portland State's Eryn Jones became the ignition Blair was searching for to overcome the uncharacteristic mistakes his team made in the opening minutes and finally got the more talented Aggies rolling.
"We did not underestimate them. I think they just played very well to start the ball game," Blair said after becoming the Aggies' career leader in wins with 155. "I said, you've got 64 teams in here and treat them all like top 25 teams because they've earned that right."
Being in the lead also caught the Vikings off-guard. Coach Sherri Murrell called a timeout because she suddenly saw pressure in the eyes of her players. Her reminder: There are no expectations as No. 15 seed.
"When we went up 28-27, the kids had this look in their eyes like 'the pressure is on us now,"' Murrell said. "When we had that type of pressure, we didn't respond well."
After Portland State's brief lead, the Aggies closed the first half on a 12-3 spurt and then outscored Portland State 18-6 to start the second half and ended any thought of the Vikings becoming the first No. 15 seed to pull a first-round NCAA tournament upset.
Believing they are flying undetected among tournament contenders, the Aggies set up a second-round date with either No. 7 seed Gonzaga or 10th-seeded North Carolina, who played Saturday's late game. The Aggies were reminded all week of the 2009 tournament when they were expected to cruise into the regional finals as a No. 2 seed and a date with Connecticut, only to stumble in the regional semis and fall to sixth-seeded Arizona State.
"Their size, those are some girls that we're not use to playing against and I think they wore us down," Vikings guard Claire Faucher said.
Jones and Faucher each finished with 15 points for the Vikings. But Faucher, the Vikings' leading scorer was harassed all night by the Sydney-combo of Texas A&M guards Sydney Carter and Sydney Colson. The result: Faucher was 6 of 19 shooting, including just 3 of 14 on 3-pointers after scoring 26 points and hitting eight 3-pointers in the Big Sky tournament title game. She was also left with one sore body after a scary crash into the basket standard late in the first half that had her limping off the floor at halftime. Faucher played most of the second half, but made just 3 of 13 shots.
"All I remember is trying to make a play on the ball and the next thing I remember is my head was just pounding," Faucher said. "I don't know what I hit. That will be fun to watch on replays."
Portland State harassed the Aggies into nine turnovers in the first half, and even laughed at its own mistakes. When Katy Wade flung a crosscourt pass into the first row behind the Aggies' bench, Murrell could only chuckle.
But it wasn't all laughs for the Vikings. They hit five 3s in the first half and even took a 28-27 lead on Jones' jumper with 4:25 left, bringing not only the green-glad Vikings fans to their feet.
The lead didn't last long. Texas A&M regained control before halftime and quickly turned the contested into the rout everyone expected. The only lingering question was if Smith would get a triple-double, but Cierra Windham's jumper in the final minutes rimmed out, Smith's last chance at a 10th assist.
The last triple-double was by Michigan State's Kristin Haynie in 2005.